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China: Captain’s trial will harm ties with Japan

TOKYO | Japan will damage its relations with China if it prosecutes the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with Japanese patrol vessels near disputed islands, Beijing warned Thursday.

The Chinese government also said it was sending a law enforcement ship to the islands in the East China Sea - though it was unclear if the vessel would simply collect fishermen stranded after the collision or patrol those waters.

Territorial disputes have been a disruptive undercurrent in China’s relations with its Asian neighbors in recent years.

As the robust Chinese economy’s demand for resources grows, Beijing’s commercial ships are venturing farther from shore and its more powerful navy is enforcing claims in disputed waters.

The likelihood of a trial increased Thursday as the Japanese coast guard handed over 41-year-old Capt. Zhan Qixiong to prosecutors for further investigation to decide whether to officially charge him in the case, Japanese coast guard spokesman Masahiro Ichijo said.

No one was injured in the collision, and the two Japanese vessels sustained minor damage.

CHINA

Blind activist lawyer released from prison

DONGSHIGU VILLAGE | A blind self-taught activist lawyer who documented forced abortions and other abuses was released from a Chinese prison Thursday and promptly confined in his rural village with limited access to communication, a relative said.

Chen Guangcheng, 39, is a charismatic, inspirational figure for civil liberties lawyers who have fought to enforce the rights that are enshrined in China’s Constitution but often breached by the authoritarian government and police.

Mr. Chen was imprisoned in 2006, marking the start of a government crackdown on activist attorneys.

Mr. Chen was escorted to his village Thursday morning as family members were preparing to leave to meet him at the Linyi city prison, relative Yin Dongjiang said. The family has been under heavy surveillance in recent days, and authorities cut off phone service for several relatives, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports