After two days in a Japanese jail a small group of Chinese activists sailed into Hong Kong as heroes on Wednesday.
They had protested against what they say is Japan’s continued occupation of the Diaoyu islands, which China insists are part of Taiwan, and thus Chinese.
They briefly landed on the uninhabited rocks, and their ship, the ‘Kai Fung No. 2’ was damaged.
“Personally my dream remains a dream, because I’ve been in this movement for 16 years, and I really want to set foot there, but this time I sent off seven of my brothers, and I stayed on the boat to do my duty,” said the ship’s owner.
Just east of Taiwan the islands are in rich fishing grounds and may have huge gas potential.
The seas around China are becoming ever more volatile with territorial disputes, whose volume can be turned up for political advantage at home or abroad. There are ongoing disputes involving at least seven states neighbouring the China or South China seas.
Incursions like this one are regular events, with protesters usually expelled quickly to avoid diplomatic fallout. The fears are one day rough and tumble could turn deadly, and spark a more dangerous crisis.