Japanese man sets himself on fire in protest against former prime minister’s state funeral


A man set himself on fire near the Japanese Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday in an apparent protest against 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 policeman trying to put out the flames was also injured.

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

Police have declined to confirm the incident, which took place on what would have been Abe’s 68th birthday.

“I heard that the police found a man who suffered burns near the government offices, and I know the police are investigating,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference. .

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister who resigned in 2020 due to ill health, was shot dead during a campaign rally on July 8. His state funeral is scheduled for September 27, with some 6,000 people from Japan and abroad expected to attend.

Opposition to the event grew due to revelations after Abe’s murder of links between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which he was a powerful member, and the controversial Unification Church. The suspect in Abe’s death said the church put his mother out of business and he felt the former prime minister had her back.

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

Public sentiment was narrowly in favor of a state funeral when it was announced, shortly after Abe’s death, but opinion has shifted sharply.

Numerous polls show that a majority of Japanese now oppose the ceremony, helping to plummet Kishida’s support. A Mainichi Daily poll taken over the weekend showed support at 29%, down six percentage points from the end of August – a level which analysts say makes it difficult for a prime minister to have enough support. support to carry out its program.

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

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

The government’s latest cost estimate is 1.65 billion yen ($12 million), which includes security and receptions.

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

(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura, Kaori Kaneko and Elaine Lies; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Richard Pullin)