A mainlander who tried to fly a hot-air balloon hundreds of kilometers to the disputed Diaoyu Islands was rescued by Japan’s coast guard after ditching in the sea.
It was an ambitious goal – hot-air balloons travel largely at the mercy of the wind, and the islands are tiny specks in the East China Sea 359 kilometers away from the take-off point.
Xu sent a request for help several hours into his flight and ditched in the sea, with a Japanese rescue helicopter picking him up 22 kilometers south of his goal.
Xu, who was unhurt, was handed over to a Chinese patrol ship outside Japanese territorial waters. Photos distributed by the Japan coast guard showed a striped, multicolored balloon drifting half-deflated.
On his verified account on Weibo, Xu posted a short message declaring that he had been returned safely to Fuqing city in Fujian.
“I have returned safely,” he wrote. “Thanks everyone for your concern.”
His supporters wrote back with words of support, with many declaring him a “hero” who had done well even if he had fallen short of his target.
“So awesome!” one user wrote. “What innovative thinking and action!”
“It’s enough that you came back safely,” wrote another. “Brother Xu, your countrymen are proud of your pioneering act!”
In one, he shared a photo of a red Chinese flag with islands in the background.
“I got some expert advice today and am now full of meteorological knowledge! I’m flying to the Diaoyu Islands! Be Chinese with attitude.”
In another, he posted what appeared to be a map of his planned route, with a bright yellow line drawn between the Fujian coast and the islands.
He declared the mission “the most difficult in the history of hot-air balloon flight.”
– AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE