Japanese man sets himself on fire in apparent protest at ex-prime minister’s state funeral

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TOKYO, Sept. 21 (Reuters) – A man set himself on fire near Japan’s prime minister’s office on Wednesday in apparent protest against the government’s decision to hold a state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was murdered earlier this year, media reported. .

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

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

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

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

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister to step down in 2020 due to ill health, was gunned down during a campaign rally on July 8. His state funeral is scheduled for September 27, which will be attended by some 6,000 people from Japan and abroad.

Opposition to the event has grown following revelations following Abe’s assassination 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 has said the church has bankrupted his mother and he felt the former prime minister supported this.

Connections 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 assassination. The LDP said earlier this month that a survey found that nearly half of the 379 LDP lawmakers had some form of interaction with the church.

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

Numerous polls show that a majority of Japanese are now opposing the ceremony, causing Kishida’s support to plummet. A poll by the Mainichi Daily last weekend showed his support at 29%, down six percentage points from the end of August — a level analysts say makes it difficult for a prime minister to gain enough support to advance his agenda. to be carried out.

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

Kishida has repeatedly defended his decision, but a vast majority of voters are still unconvinced, also questioning the need to hold such an expensive ceremony at a time of growing economic pain for ordinary citizens.

The most recent estimate of government costs is 1.65 billion yen ($12 million), including security and receptions.

In 2014, two men set themselves on fire in separate incidents in protest at Japan’s shift from post-war pacifism under Abe’s rule. One of the men has died.

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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