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​Japanese man self-immolates in pro-pacifist constitution protest (GRAPHIC CONTENT)

Published time: June 29, 2014 13:03
Edited time: June 29, 2014 15:17
Photo from Twitter/@JuhaniHeiskanen

Photo from Twitter/@JuhaniHeiskanen

A middle-aged man has set himself on fire in the center of the Japanese capital in an apparent protest to government plans to change Japan’s pacifist constitution. Authorities hosed the man down and immediately rushed him to hospital.

In a dramatic act of protest, the protester scaled a pedestrian bridge outside a main train station in the Shinjuku neighborhood. He then proceeded to make a speech through a megaphone condemning Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to expand the use of the Japanese military by reforming the constitution.

Since the end of World War II, the Japanese constitution has forbidden the use of military force against other nations. It may only use its armed forces in self-defense.

After finishing his speech, the activist doused himself in what appeared to be gasoline and set himself ablaze in front of hundreds of onlookers.

"He was sitting cross legged and was just talking, so I thought it would end without incident. But when I came back to the same place 30 minutes later, he was still there. Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire," Ryuichiro Nakatsu, an 18-year-old student who witnessed the incident, told Reuters.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEO IS VERY GRAPHIC

A video appeared on YouTube showing the authorities hosing down the man, before paramedics took him away. The man’s current state is unknown.

Conservative, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes that the pacifist constitution unfairly restricts Japan from exercising its right to collective self-defense. He announced plans in May to modify the constitution to allow Japanese troops to intervene in combat missions abroad.

Abe’s cabinet could finalize a resolution as early as Tuesday, but the measure must be approved by the party’s junior coalition partner, which has a strong pacifist tradition. The controversial proposal has polarized Japanese society, with many opposing Japan’s possible involvement in overseas conflicts.

However, advocates of the bill argue that a nuclear North Korea and an emboldened China mean that Japan must take measures to sure up security for the future. Japan is currently embroiled in a fierce territorial dispute with China over a set of islands in the South China Sea known to the Japanese as the Senkakus and the Chinese as the Diaoyus.

The islands are uninhabited, but the surrounding area is believed to be rich is oil and gas resources.