Firebomber of Japanese embassy sent to Shanghai

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Firebomber of Japanese embassy sent to Shanghai

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Liu Qiang, the Chinese activist who was jailed for hurling firebombs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, returned to his homeland yesterday, a day after a local court’s decision not to extradite him to Japan.

Liu boarded an airplane bound for Shanghai, his hometown, at the Incheon International Airport yesterday morning, hours before a group of Japanese special envoys made a visit to incoming president Park Geun-hye.

“I appreciate the fair ruling under South Korean law,” Liu said in a phone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “Japan should start viewing history correctly.”

Liu, 39, from Guangzhou, was arrested and charged on Jan. 8, 2012 for throwing four Molotov cocktails at the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul. He received a 10-month jail term and was released on Nov. 8.

Upon his release, both China and Japan had requested Korea to send him to their respective countries. Japan wanted him because Liu confessed while under questioning in Seoul that he set fire to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo in December 2011.

A court in Seoul ruled Thursday not to send Liu to Japan because his act was not simple arson but a political crime, so the suspect should be protected.

Shortly after the ruling, the Ministry of Justice ordered Liu to immediately leave the country as he entered the country illegally.

“China welcomes the result of this case,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday. “The Chinese government regards protection of its people’s safety and rights as a grave concern.”

A senior Japanese government official said he “can’t understand at all” the ruling and called it a “very regrettable” incident, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan yesterday. The official also added that the government was considering “protesting the decision to the Korean government,” the newspaper said.

Liu said he set fire to the Yasukuni Shrine and threw firebombs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul out of anger over Tokyo’s refusal to apologize for its wartime misdeeds. His maternal grandmother was allegedly a Korean from Pyongyang who was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.

Tokyo requested Seoul hand over Liu after he was released based on a bilateral treaty signed in 2002 regarding criminal transfers, while Beijing appealed that Liu be sent back home based on a “humanitarian approach.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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