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Japanese man sets fire to himself in apparent protest at former PM’s state funeral

TOKYO – A man set himself on fire near the office of Japan’s prime minister on Wednesday, apparently to protest the government’s decision to hold a state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated earlier this year, media reported .

The man was taken to hospital with burns all over his body, while a police officer who was trying to douse the flames was also injured.

The man, in his 70s, was unconscious when first found but later told police he deliberately doused himself in oil, media said. A letter about Abe’s state funeral was found nearby with the words “I strongly oppose it.”

Police declined to confirm the incident, which happened on Abe’s 68th birthday.

“I have heard that the police have found a man who suffered burns near government offices and I am aware that the police are conducting an investigation,” Cabinet Chef Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference.

Unidentified officials check the spot where a man set himself on fire near Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's official residence in Tokyo on September 21, 2022.
Unidentified officials check the spot where the man set himself on fire near Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s official residence in Tokyo on September 21, 2022.
REUTERS

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, who resigned in 2020 due to ill health, was shot dead at a campaign rally on July 8. His state funeral is scheduled for September 27 and will be attended by about 6,000 people from Japan and overseas.

Opposition to the event is growing amid revelations following Abe’s assassination of links between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which he was an influential member, and the controversial Unification Church. The suspect in Abe’s death said the church bankrupted his mother and he felt the former prime minister supported her.

Links to the Unification Church, founded in South Korea in the 1950s, have become a major problem for current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the LDP since they emerged after Abe’s assassination. The LDP said earlier this month a poll showed nearly half of 379 LDP lawmakers had some form of interaction with the church.

The man was taken to the hospital with burns all over his body.
The man was taken to the hospital with burns all over his body.
AP

Public opinion was narrowly in favor of a state funeral at the time of the announcement, shortly after Abe’s death, but opinion has changed greatly.

Numerous polls show that the majority of Japanese are now opposed to the ceremony, helping Kishida’s support plummet. A Mainichi Daily poll conducted over the weekend showed his support at 29%, down six percentage points from late August – a level analysts say it is difficult for a prime minister to have enough support to implement his agenda.

Support for the LDP fell 6 points to 23%, the Mainichi said.

Police guard the spot where the man set himself on fire on September 21, 2022 in Tokyo
Police guard the spot where the man set himself on fire on September 21, 2022 in Tokyo
AFP via Getty Images

Kishida has repeatedly defended his decision, but a large majority of voters remain unconvinced, also questioning the need for holding such an expensive ceremony at a time of mounting economic troubles for ordinary citizens.

The government’s latest cost estimate is $12 million, including security and receptions.

In 2014, two men set themselves on fire in separate incidents to protest Japan’s departure from post-war pacification under Abe’s administration. One of the men died.

https://nypost.com/2022/09/21/japanese-man-sets-himself-on-fire-in-apparent-protest-at-former-pms-state-funeral/ Japanese man sets fire to himself in apparent protest at former PM’s state funeral

JACLYN DIAZ

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