Of all the things a 35-year-old Chinese chef could have been doing on New Year’s Day, navigating a hot air balloon across the ocean to make an incursion onto uninhabited, disputed islands with Japan would have to count as one of the more unusual.
The chef, who works in northern China’s Hebei Province, was picked up in the afternoon by the Japanese coast guard after his balloon crashed and went down in the ocean near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are administered by Japan but claimed by the Chinese regime as Chinese territory; they have been the source of immense tension between the two countries recently.
The man lifted off in his hot air balloon around 7 a.m. from Fujian Province, on China’s southeastern coast. It is unclear how he acquired the balloon, or what his intent was beyond publicity.
The man said he planned to land somewhere on the rocky Senkaku Islands, but his hot air balloon malfunctioned. He sent out rescue messages with his portable radio device, and was picked up by the Japanese, whose administration of the islands he disputes.
Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, first reported the news.
The Japanese Marine Safety Agency picked him up in a helicopter and handed him to the Chinese maritime police.
Chinese people, who are encouraged by the Communist Party to support China’s claims over the territory of the Senkaku Islands, held a variety of different opinions on the chef’s bungled strategy. A large number of online commentators said it was “irrational,” while some admired his courage.
Some found it ironic that a Chinese patriot who’s against Japan now has the Japanese to thank for saving his life. “Now Japan has turned into his benefactor,” remarked Asura82 on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China.