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Japan honours Shinzo Abe at controversial funeral

The former Prime Minister was shot dead in July, but the decision to give him a state funeral provoked opposition.

Image: PA

JAPANESE AND FOREIGN dignitaries have paid tribute to assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe at a controversial state funeral, as long lines of people gathered to offer flowers and prayers.

Abe’s ashes, carried by his widow Akie, arrived at the storied Budokan venue in Tokyo, where a 19-gun salute sounded in honour of the slain former leader.

Outside the Budokan, thousands of Japanese people stood in line as the ashes arrived, waiting to deliver flowers and say a prayer in two mourning tents.

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and one of the country’s most recognisable political figures, known for cultivating international alliances and his “Abenomics” economic strategy.

He resigned in 2020 over recurring health problems, but remained a key political voice and was campaigning for his ruling party when a lone gunman killed him on 8 July.

The shooting sent shock waves through a country with famously low gun crime and prompted international condemnation.
japan-abe-funeral Source: PA
But the decision to give him a state funeral – only the second for a former premier in the post-war period – has provoked opposition, with around 60 percent of Japanese against the event in recent polls.

Abe’s accused killer targeted the former leader believing he had ties to the Unification Church, which he resented over massive donations his mother had made to the sect.

The assassination prompted fresh scrutiny of the church and its fundraising, and uncomfortable questions for Japan’s political establishment, with the ruling party admitting around half its lawmakers had links to the religious organisation.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged the party will sever all ties with the church, but the scandal helped fuel discontent over the state funeral.

Thousands have protested the ceremony and a man set himself on fire last week near the prime minister’s office, leaving notes reportedly expressing his objection to the event.

Some lawmakers from opposition parties are also boycotting the funeral.

The controversy has various causes, with some accusing the Prime Minister of unilaterally approving the funeral instead of consulting parliament, and others resentful of a nearly $12 million price tag.

It is also the legacy of Abe’s divisive tenure, marked by persistent allegations of cronyism, and opposition to his nationalism and plans to reform the pacifist constitution.

US Vice President Kamala Harris and world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian premier Anthony Albanese were among those in attendance.
japan-abe-funeral Source: PA
Abe worked to cultivate close ties with Washington to bolster the key US-Japanese alliance, and also courted a stronger “Quad” grouping Japan, the United States, India and Australia.

Japan’s emperor and empress are not attending, as neutral national figures, but Crown Prince Akishino and his wife are expected to lead mourners in offering flowers at the end of the 90-minute service.

© AFP 2022

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