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Japanese man sets himself on fire in apparent protest during state funeral of former Prime Minister

TOKYO –

A man set himself on fire near Japan’s prime minister’s office on Wednesday in an apparent protest over the government’s decision to hold a state funeral for former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated. close to the beginning of this year, media reported.

The man was taken to hospital with burns all over his body, while a policeman trying to put out the fire was also injured.

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

Police declined to confirm the incident took place on Abe’s 68th birthday.

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

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister who stepped down in 2020 citing ill health, was shot dead during a rally on July 8. His state funeral was sealed. scheduled for September 27, with around 6,000 people from Japan and abroad to participate.

Opposition to the event grew due to revelations after Abe killed 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 feels the former prime minister supports that.

The association with the Unification Church, founded in South Korea in the 1950s, has been a major issue for incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the LDP since they emerged after the murder of Abe. The LDP earlier this month said a survey found that nearly half of 379 LDP lawmakers have some form of church interaction.

The public was largely in favor of a state funeral at the time it was announced, shortly after Abe’s death, but opinion has changed drastically.

Many polls show that a majority of Japanese are now opposed to the ceremony, causing Kishida’s support to plummet. A poll conducted by the Mainichi Daily over the weekend put his support at 29%, down six percentage points from the end of August – a level that analysts say makes it difficult for a prime minister to win. enough support to carry out its agenda.

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

Kishida has repeatedly defended his decision, but the vast majority of voters remain unconvinced, also questioning the need for such an expensive ceremony in a time of growing economic fortitude. with ordinary people.

The latest government cost estimate is 1.65 billion yen ($12 million), including security and reception.

In 2014, two men set themselves on fire in separate incidents to protest Japan’s departure from post-war pacifism under Prime Minister 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)

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