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Man sets himself on fire near Japan PM's office in apparent protest of Shinzo Abe's state funeral: Local media

Man sets himself on fire near Japan PM's office in apparent protest of Shinzo Abe's state funeral: Local media

Police stand guard at the entrance to the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Sep 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Richard A Brooks)

TOKYO: A man set himself on fire near the Japanese prime minister's office on Wednesday (Sep 21) in an apparent protest at 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 suffering burns to his entire body, while a police officer who tried to extinguish the flames was also injured.

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

Police and the prime minister's office all declined to confirm the incident, which took place on what would have been Abe's 68th birthday.

Police are pictured down the street from a burnt bush and grass (background, left, next to car) where a man set himself on fire, just down the street from the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Sep 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Richard A Brooks)
Police stand guard at the street leading to the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Sep 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Richard A Brooks)

"I have heard that police found a man who had suffered burns near government offices, and I'm aware that police are investigating," chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference.

Kyodo news agency and other outlets said police were called to the scene after reports a man was "engulfed in flames".

Reports were made at about 6.50am when the man set himself on fire in the Kasumigaseki district of Chiyoda ward in Tokyo, said Kyodo. 

Several cabinet ministry offices are located in the Kasumigaseki district, including the official workplace and residence of the Prime Minister of Japan.

Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was shot dead on Jul 8 while campaigning. A publicly-funded state funeral honouring him will be held on Sep 27 at Tokyo's Budokan, a large venue for concerts and sporting events.

About 6,000 people from Japan and overseas set to take part, including world leaders. US Vice President Kamala Harris and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are among those expected to attend.

But opposition to the event has been growing steadily because of revelations after Abe's killing of links between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the controversial Unification Church. The suspect in Abe's death said the church had bankrupted his mother and he felt the former prime minister supported it.

A majority of Japanese now oppose the funeral, with protests planned in the run-up to the ceremony and on the day it will be held, and this has sent current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's support plunging.

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

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

In 2014, two men set themselves on fire in separate incidents in protest at Japan's shift away from postwar pacifism under Abe's administration. One of the men died. 

Source: Agencies/zl
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