Japanese Sets Self Ablaze in Apparent Protest against Abe Funeral
A Japanese man has set himself on fire reportedly to protest a state funeral for ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July.
Hundreds of foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the funeral on 27 September.
On Wednesday, witnesses called police after spotting a man on fire near the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.
According to local media, officers put out the blaze, and took the still-conscious man to the hospital, The extent of his injuries and his current condition is unknown.
Japanese media reports say the man is believed to be in his 70s.
The government is yet to comment on the protest. But public opposition to the holding of the state funeral has intensified in recent months, with polls showing a majority of voters unhappy with the expenditure.
Abe was shot dead on 8 July, aged 67, at a campaign rally for his political party. The killing of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister was condemned internationally and shocked Japan, a country with a minimal record of political violence and gun crime.
But state funerals are not an established practice in Japan, and protesters say they resent the use of public funds on the event that is projected to cost about 1.65bn yen (£10.1m; $11.4m).
One of the country’s main opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party, has also said its lawmakers won’t participate in next week’s ceremony.
Many in Japan are commenting on how the mood around Abe’s state funeral contrasts starkly with the affection shown at the Queen’s state funeral in the UK.
Surveys show a majority of Japanese are against the event. Aside from the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent, the guestlist – which reportedly includes representatives from the Burmese junta – is raising eyebrows.
Others say that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is failing to address Abe’s and senior ruling party politicians’ links to the controversial Unification Church, and this is increasing opposition.
Adding to the sour mood, a film about Abe’s murder – produced by a former member of the terror group the Japanese Red Army – will be shown next week, with critics saying it romanticises the killing.
Police are yet to confirm details of the protest on Tuesday, but local media reported the man had voiced his opposition to the funeral to a nearby officer before setting himself alight.
Handwritten notes were also found around him expressing the same message, local media reported.
Criticism of the state funeral has also increased as more politicians in Japan’s parliament have been found to have connections with a controversial church.
The man charged with killing Abe said he had targeted the former prime minister for his connections to the Unification Church, which he said had bankrupted his family.