Man sets himself on fire in apparent protest at Ab’s funeral
TOKYO >> A man set himself on fire near the office of Japan’s prime minister in Tokyo early Wednesday in apparent protest at the state funeral for former leader Shinzo Abe scheduled for next week, officials and media reports said.
The man, believed to be in his 70s, suffered burns over much of his body but was conscious and told police he set himself on fire after dousing himself with oil, reports said the Kyodo news agency.
A note was found on him that was apparently written by the man: “Personally, I am absolutely against” Abe’s funeral, Kyodo reported.
A Tokyo Fire Department official confirmed that a man set himself on fire on the street in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki government district and that he was alive when he was taken to a hospital by ambulance, but declined to give further details including the identity, motive or condition of the man. citing the sensitivity of what was a police matter.
Tokyo police refused to comment, including on a report that a police officer got caught in the fire.
The alleged cremation underscores a growing wave of protests against the burial of Abe, who was one of the most controversial leaders in post-war Japanese politics because of his revisionist view of war history, security policies, and his autocratic approach and nepotism, criticized as autocratic. More protests are expected in the coming days, including on the day of the funeral next week.
The incident is also embarrassing for Japanese police, who have tightened security for an event expected to be attended by about 6,000 people, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and other dignitaries.
Japanese police were also partially blamed for failing to protect Abe, who was shot dead by a gunman who approached him from behind as he was delivering a campaign speech outdoors in July.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is in New York for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly of world leaders. He delivered a speech Tuesday expressing disappointment at the Security Council’s failure to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine due to Russia’s permanent veto and calling for reforms that would allow the United Nations to promote world peace and better defend the world order.
The planned state funeral for Abe has become increasingly unpopular with Japanese as more details emerge about the ruling party’s and Abes’ ties to the Unification Church, which has developed close ties with Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers because of their shared interests in conservative causes.
The suspect in Abe’s murder reportedly believed his mother’s donations to the church had ruined his family. The LDP has said nearly half of its MPs have ties to the church, but party officials have denied links between the party as an organization and the church.
Kishida said Abe deserves the honor of a state funeral as Japan’s longest-serving leader after World War II and for his diplomatic and economic achievements.
Critics say it was undemocratically decided and an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayers’ money. They tell Kishida in deciding to hold a state funeral to please Abe’s party faction and bolster his own power. Support rates for Kishida’s government have plummeted amid public dissatisfaction with his handling of the party’s ecclesiastical affiliations and funeral plans.
A family funeral for Abe was held at a Buddhist temple in July. The state funeral is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Budokan martial arts arena in Tokyo.
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