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Man sets self ablaze in Tokyo to protest defense policy shifts

TOKYO -- A man set himself on fire at Tokyo's busy Shinjuku railway station on Sunday in an apparent political protest.

The man, who appeared in his 50s or 60s, was taken to the hospital after suffering serious injuries, said Daiji Kubota, an officer at the Shinjuku police station. He said the reason for the self-immolation was under investigation.

Shots of the incident on Twitter and other social media showed a man clad in a suit and tie sitting on a small mat along the metal framework above a pedestrian walkway with two plastic bottles of what looked like gasoline beside him.

Witnesses were quoted as saying the man spoke through a megaphone to protest the government's moves to change Japan's defense policy, doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight as hundreds of people watched from below and from nearby buildings.

The national broadcaster NHK showed firefighters using hoses to extinguish the flames.

Japan's Cabinet is expected on Tuesday to approve a proposal calling for the right to “collective self-defense,” which would allow Japan to play a more assertive role in international security amid China's growing military presence and rising regional tensions. Japan currently limits its participation even in U.N. peacekeeping activities to noncombat roles. Critics say the shift undermines the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's Constitution.

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Investigators and firefighters work at the scene where a man has set himself on fire, on a pedestrian walkway at Tokyo's busy Shinjuku railway station, Sunday, June 29. (AP/Kyodo News )

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