A pro-democracy lawmaker said on Thursday that a Hong Kong activist may be prosecuted in Japan for a protest in relation to the anniversary of the 1937 Nanjing massacre.

Activist Alex Kwok Siu-kit and Yim Man-wa, members of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, were arrested at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on Wednesday. The committee is a Hong Kong-based activist group that asserts Chinese sovereignty over the Japan-controlled isles.

Alex Kwok Siu-kit
Alex Kwok Siu-kit. Photo: Screenshot.

In a video shot by Yim, Kwok – also a member of Hong Kong’s Labour Party – held a banner demanding Japan take responsibility for the Nanjing massacre, and lit a prop spirit tablet of Tojo Hideki, a general of the Imperial Japanese Army, whose spirit was honoured at the shrine. The fire was quickly extinguished with no report of any damage or injuries.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan said Kwok’s family requested his help on Wednesday, and that he has reached out to the Security Bureau, the Chief Secretary’s Office and the Immigration Department.

Wan said a translator and a volunteer lawyer in Japan, as well as representatives from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, have met with Kwok and Yim.

“But this morning I have another piece of news that the Japanese police are very likely to continue detaining and prosecuting [Kwok],” Wan said on Thursday.

“I believe the matter is getting more and more serious. The Hong Kong government’s response is too slow, and the response from the Chinese government and the Foreign Ministry is too weak.”

Double standard

Wan said there was a double standard between the rescue of the two activists, and Chinese tech giant Huawei’s top executive Meng Wanzhou, whose release Beijing had publicly called for.

“What Alex Kwok did in Japan was related to national dignity – he was protesting for an issue that the Chinese and the Hong Kong governments would not dare to talk too much about,” Wan said. “I don’t understand why their treatments were so much different from [Meng Wanzhou’s].”

According to Chinese records, 300,000 civilians and soldiers were killed after invading Japanese troops seized the city of Nanjing during the Sino-Japanese War. Some historians have disputed the figure, while some Japanese nationalists have denied any killings took place.

The Yasukuni Shrine honours the dead in the war, including some of those who died in World War II. It has long been a source of contention between Japan and its Asian neighbours, who believe it glorifies the country’s militarist past.

After Tojo was sentenced to death for war crimes and hanged in 1948, he was one of those enshrined at Yasukuni. His tomb is located in a shrine in Aichi province.

Andrew Wan
Democratic Party’s Andrew Wan. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Au Pak-kuen, vice-chair of the action committee, said on Thursday that the arrest of the pair was unreasonable, as they had not broken any laws.

Au said Yim had remained silent during the detention, and that her lawyer believed Yim has a lower chance of being prosecuted as she had only filmed the protest.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.