Chinese activists on board the Hong Kong ship Qifeng No.2 landed on the Diaoyu Islands yesterday, the first successful landing on the Islands by Chinese activists since 2004.
The event coincided with Japanese politicians visiting the Yasukuni Shrine on the sensitive date of August 15. These activists brought Chinese people a sense of relief. We offer our support to their acts.
The Japanese authorities yesterday detained 14 Chinese, including seven who landed on the Islands. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reportedly said those detained would be dealt with according to law. China will not accept this.
China has sovereignty over Diaoyu and Japan has no jurisdiction over the Islands. China will not accept any legal steps taken by the Japanese side against the Chinese activists. They have to be released without any conditions.
Two major Asian powers will extend their diplomatic competition after this landing.
In 2010, Japan attempted to put on trial a Chinese captain whose boat clashed with a Japanese patrol ship near Diaoyu. In the face of China's strong opposition, the Japanese side had to put on a show and eventually released the captain.
In 2004, Chinese activists visiting Diaoyu were "repatriated" by Japan.
This time, with joint efforts from mainland and Hong Kong authorities, it should be possible to press Japan to release the detained Chinese activists.
China should by no means accept Japan's legal steps. No other compromise should be made by the Chinese side either.
The Chinese public is wondering why the Diaoyu Islands, a part of China's territory, is occupied by Japan and why the PLA doesn't send navy ships to escort activists. The Chinese government is thought of as being "weak" by some.
It is a challenge to make the Chinese public understand the complexity of the Diaoyu issue and coordinate willingness to protect Diaoyu and China's strategic interests.
Chinese society needs to understand that grass-roots activists for Diaoyu are being backed by the State.
While there is no open official support of the activists landing on Diaoyu, that doesn't mean these activists are acting on their own. Their safe trip to Diaoyu, and eventual safe return, are both the result of China's national strength.
The next steps are the rescue of the detained activists and shielding them from Japan's legal process. Then these activists can be seen as having had a positive trip. For this, China needs to leverage a certain amount of its diplomatic resources to compete with Japan.
Meanwhile, Chinese need to be clear that China cannot retrieve the Islands now. This would mean a large-scale war, which is not in China's interests.