Man sets himself on fire in protest of former Japanese PM Abe funeral
Controversies plaguing Shinzo Abe's legacy continue to emerge in Japan.
A man set himself on fire near the Japanese prime minister's office, seemingly in protest of the country's former prime minister Shinzo Abe's state funeral which is going to take place on September 27.
The man, who has not been identified, was initially unconscious and suffered burns all over his body after the incident in Tokyo on Wednesday morning, less than a week before Abe's controversial send-off.
Since Abe's death, revelations about the governing Liberal Democratic party's ties to the Unification Church, whose members are colloquially known as 'Moonies', have fueled opposition to the state funeral.
The 70-year-old protester regained consciousness and told police that he doused himself in oil before setting himself on fire, as per media reports. A note in which he stated that he "strongly opposed" the funeral was discovered nearby.
The same reports added that the police officer who extinguished the flames was also hurt.
Tetsuya Yamagami, the man who shot dead former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, addressed a letter to a critic of the religious group the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, signaling his intentions.
The letter was intended for a guy who ran a site attacking the Unification Church, which Abe was associated with, according to the shooter. The letter was apparently discovered, five days after the former prime leader was assassinated, according to Kyodo news and the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.
The former Japanese prime minister, 67, was attacked on July 8 at a campaign in the Japanese city of Nara. Yamagami, 41, approached the lawmaker from behind and fired two rounds from around ten meters away. According to police, Abe was aware immediately after being shot, but his health deteriorated during transfer, resulting in "cardiac and pulmonary arrest."
Later in the day, Nara Medical University hospital pronounced him dead.
During the investigation, Yamagami revealed that his family fell into poverty 20 years ago after his mother, a church member, made large donations to the organization.
For weeks, revelations of ties between Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers and the church dominated the domestic news agenda, hardening opposition to using taxpayer funds to pay for Abe's funeral.
The scandal has also harmed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who declared his support for a state funeral just days after Abe died. A Mainichi Shimbun poll conducted over the weekend found Kishida's support at 29%, down six percentage points from late August.
The government announced earlier this month that the service at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan hall would cost at least $12 million, with the majority of the funds going toward a massive security operation. According to a Kyodo news agency poll released on Sunday, 60.8% of those polled opposed the ceremony, while only 38.5% supported it. More than 75% thought the government spent "too much" on the funeral.
Foreign guests will include US Vice President Kamala Harris and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Approximately 6,000 people are expected to attend.
The man who set himself on fire on Wednesday is not the first to use self-immolation to protest Abe, a conservative whose legacy has elicited harsh criticism.
In 2014, two men set themselves on fire in separate incidents, with one of them succumbing to his burns, to protest the impending implementation of security laws spearheaded by Abe, which critics said represented a dangerous departure from Japan's postwar pacifism.