A man set himself on fire near the Japanese prime minister’s office in Tokyo early Wednesday in apparent protest against the state funeral planned next week for former leader Shinzo Abe, officials and media reports said.
The man, believed to be in his 70s, sustained burns on large parts of his body but was conscious and told police that he set himself on fire after pouring oil over him, Kyodo News agency reported. The man was taken to a hospital.
A note apparently written by the man was found with him that said, “Personally, I am absolutely against” Abe’s funeral, Kyodo said.
A Tokyo Fire Department official confirmed a man set himself afire on the street in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki government district but declined to give further details, including the man’s identity, motive or condition, citing the sensitivity of what was a police matter.
Tokyo police refused to comment, including on a report that a police officer was caught in the fire.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is in New York for the annual UN General Assembly meeting of world leaders. He gave a speech Tuesday expressing disappointment over the Security Council’s failure to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of Russia’s permanent veto and called for reforms that would allow the UN to better defend global peace and order.
The planned state funeral for Abe has become increasingly unpopular among Japanese as more details emerge about the ruling party’s and Abe’s links to the Unification Church, which built close ties with Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers over their shared interests in conservative causes.
The suspect in Abe’s assassination reportedly believed his mother’s donations to the church ruined his family. The LDP has said nearly half its lawmakers have ties to the church.
A state funeral is a rare event in Japan, but Kishida has said Abe deserves the honour as Japan’s longest-serving post-World War II leader and for his diplomatic and economic achievements.
Critics have said it was decided undemocratically and is an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayers’ money. They say Kishida aimed to please Abe’s party faction and buttress his own power.