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  • Japan Times ZEIT GIST: G8 Summit and the bad “security” habits brought out in Japan

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 22nd, 2008

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    Hi Blog. I’m on the road from tomorrow, so let me put this article I wrote for the Japan Times up today. It also feeds into the current series subtext of policing in Japan. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    =============================

    SUMMIT WICKED THIS WAY COMES
    The G8 Summit gives nothing back, brings out Japan’s bad habits
    By Arudou Debito

    Column 43 for the Japan Times Zeit Gist Community Page
    “Director’s Cut”, Draft 19, as submitted to the JT, with links to sources
    Article as appeared in Japan Times Tuesday, April 22, 2008
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080422zg.html

    You’ve probably heard about July’s G8 Summit in Toyako, in my home prefecture of Hokkaido. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, a primer from the Foreign Affairs Ministry (http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/gaiko/summit/toyako08):

    “The Group of Eight (G8) Summit is an annual meeting attended by… Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the President of the European Commission; …leaders freely and vigorously exchange opinions on a variety of issues facing the global community centering on economic and social problems.”

    While I do support people (especially those with armies behind them) talking things over peacefully, let’s consider the societal damage this event is wreaking upon its host.

    International events tend to bring out the worst in Japan. Given the “control freak” nature of our bureaucracy (exacerbated manifold when the world is watching), the government opportunely invokes extralegal powers in the name of “security”.

    A good example is the 2002 World Cup, where I witnessed firsthand (given Sapporo’s England vs. Argentina match) the overreaction by the police and the press. We had months of “anti-hooligan” media campaigns, several thousand riot police ferried up from the mainland, and Checkpoint Charlies on every downtown corner. Police were systematically stopping and questioning off-color people (such as your correspondent) regarding their roots and intentions. Not to mention “Japanese Only” signs appearing on businesses (some still up to this day).
    Source:
    http://www.debito.org/worldcup2002.html

    It spoiled things for the locals: Not only were foreign-looking peoples subjected to fearful and derisive looks at curbside and coffee shop, but also shopkeeps, hunkered down behind shuttered doors, missed business opportunities. Despite no incidents of Non-Japanese violence, official apologies for the inconvenience never came.
    Source:
    http://www.debito.org/worldcup2002.html

    This is not unprecedented in Japan. Flash back to 1966 when The Beatles performed in the Budokan. 10,000 spectators had to share seats with 3000–yes, 3000–cops. The Fuzz allowed no more than measured applause; cameras were readied to photograph anyone waving a banner or even standing up to cheer.

    It spoiled things back then too. According to interviews from the Beatles Anthology, the Fab Four felt like prisoners in their hotel rooms. George compared the atmosphere to “a military maneuver”; Ringo said people had gone “barmy”. They never came back to Japan as a group.
    Source:
    http://www.debito.org/?p=561

    Now factor in the omnipresent “terrorist threat” rocking our world. Remember last November when Immigration regained power to fingerprint almost all foreigners, including Permanent Residents? It was first justified as a means to control terrorism and infectious diseases. Then foreign crime. Now for the Summit, according to last December 31’s Yomiuri Shimbun, the Justice Ministry has expanded the catchnet to “antiglobalization activists” (whatever that means).
    Source:
    http://www.debito.org/?p=893

    The dolphin in the tuna: According to Kiyokazu Koshida, Director of the Hokkaido Peoples’ Forum on G8 Summit (http://kitay-hokkaido.net), earlier this year South Korean activist Kim Aehaw, of the Committee of Asian Women, was denied entry into Japan for advocating women workers’ rights. She later got in as a private citizen, but this demonstrates the government moving even months in advance to thwart infiltration.

    Meanwhile for those already here, The Summit is eroding civil liberties. It’s not just that Toyako and environs are closed to the public for the duration. The Sapporo City Government, at the behest of the Sapporo Police, announced last December that between July 1 and 11, the three major parks in Sapporo would be off-limits to “gatherings” (“shuukai”). This was, after protests, amended to ask gatherers to “restrain themselves” (“jishuku”), but the effect is the same.
    Source:sapporoshi011708.jpg

    Needless to say, these parks are public spaces, and about 80 kms from the Summit site. So it’s like saying an event in the Imperial Palace forbids public gatherings in Hakone; in fact, a security radius this big covers just about all of Tokyo Prefecture.

    So what of the alternate summits (http://g8ngoforum.sakura.ne.jp/english/) under the Hokkaido People’s Forum–on world poverty, indigenous peoples, peace studies, even economic and environmental issues that matter to host Hokkaido? Tough. Deemed equally dangerous are coincidental Sapporo fests, such as the Flower Festival, the Pacific Music Festival, the Nakajima Koen Flea Market, and the Sapporo Summer Festival.

    But who cares about the needs of the local yokels, as long as the world’s leaders can enjoy their sequestration in distant hotels, dinners uninterrupted by potential unpleasantries.

    Look, I’m all for bringing international events to impoverished Hokkaido. As long as we get something back from our hard-earned taxes to enjoy. We don’t from a Summit. It is not, for example, an Olympics, where in 1972, Sapporo got games, buildings, arenas, and a subway to enjoy. Nor a World Cup, where we inherited one of Japan’s best stadiums for our champion baseball team. With a Summit, little will remain in Toyako except an afterglow; according to the Hokkaido Shimbun (Sept. 4, 2007), even the Summit’s International Media Center will be razed.

    Officially, the Hokkaido Business Federation does somehow estimate a 37.9 billion yen income over the next five years (no doubt including the unrelated ski bum boom in Niseko). But seriously now, will people flock to Toyako to buy, say, “G8-Summit manju”? Who even remembers the past five Summit sites? Go ahead. Name them. See what I mean?
    Source:
    http://news22.2ch.net/test/read.cgi/newsplus/1174997177/

    But in terms of expense, the Summit’s three days of leaders in love is projected to cost, according to Yahoo News last year, 18.5 billion yen (about 180 million US dollars). Fine print: 14 billion of it is earmarked for “security”. Therefore who profits? Security forces, which get the lion’s share of the budget, and the government, which creates another precedent of cracking down on the distrusted public.

    That’s the biggest irony of these Summits: Despite the Great Powers’ sloganeering about fostering democracy worldwide, their meetings employ very anti-democratic methods to quash debate and public participation. If the Great Powers are this afraid of dissidents spoiling their party, might it not be opportune for a democratic rethink of their policies?

    Especially when you consider what these bunker mentalities encourage in Japan.

    Even a relaxed Japan has the trappings of a mild police state. For example, extreme powers of search, seizure, interrogation, detention, and conviction already granted the prosecution in our criminal justice system. Moreover, something as fundamental to a democracy as an outdoor public assembly (a right guaranteed by our Constitution) requires permission from police and local businesses (Zeit Gist March 4, 2003).

    Furthermore, Japan’s biggest police forces–Tokyo’s–can at times like these slip the leash of public accountability. To quote Edward Seidensticker, an author not given to intemperate criticisms:

    “The chief of the Tokyo prefectural police is appointed by a national police agency with the approval of the prime minister and upon the advice of a prefectural police commission, which is ineffectual. None of these agencies is under the control of governor and council. Tokyo becomes a police city when it is thought necessary to guard against the embarrassment of having someone shoot at a president or a queen or a pope.” (TOKYO RISING, page 169)
    Source:
    http://www.debito.org/?p=561

    Now send 1000 Tokyo “security police” (plus 300 “advisors”, according to April 14’s Yomiuri), along with another 2000 planned cops to Hokkaido, and watch what happens. Dollars to donuts the same outcome as Japan’s G8 Summit in Nago, Okinawa:

    “Of the 81 billion yen Japan spent on hosting the summit–ten times more than any country ever spent before–about half went for security. Some 22,000 policemen specially flown in from across Japan, backed up by twenty aircraft and one hundred naval vessels (including destroyers), patrolled the land, sea, and sky of Okinawa,” reported the Japan Policy Research Institute in September 2000.

    JPRI continued: “Swimmers and divers were flushed from surrounding seas, the cavernous insides of ancient tombs were carefully inspected, and elaborate security precautions around all major roads used by the G8 motorcades made it virtually impossible for local Okinawans to leave their homes, let alone get near the precincts of the summit conference.

    “If anyone tried, police were quick to take down name and license number, and secret service officials in black suits stealthily recorded on camera the faces of local demonstrators conducting an innocuous ‘Nago peace walk.'”

    Finally, citing a Manchester Guardian reporter, the report concluded, “Holding the G8 meeting in a remote island setting, briefly converted into a deluxe version of Alcatraz, did the trick.”
    Source:
    http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp71.html

    Hokkaido, with 20% of Japan’s land mass, is clearly too big to Alcatraz. But the bureaucrats are giving it a good old college try. They aren’t just stifling social movements in Hokkaido’s biggest city. According to the Yomiuri (April 14), the police are deputizing about 3000 amateur “local residents” and “neighborhood associations” in Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, to “watch for suspicious people” around “stations and important facilities”. That now widens the security radius to 800 kilometers!
    Source: Yomiuri News podcast April 14, 2008, from minute 13

    Point is, international events bring out bad habits in Japan. And now we have Tokyo bidding for the 2016 Olympics? Cue yet another orgiastic official fear and crackdown campaign foisted on the Japanese public, with the thick blue line of the nanny state the biggest profiteer.

    Conclusion: I don’t think Japan as a polity is mature enough yet to host these events. Japan must develop suitable administrative checks and balances, not to mention a vetting media, to stop people scaring Japanese society about the rest of the world just because it’s coming for a visit. We need to rein in Japan’s mandarins converting Japan into a Police State, cracking down on its already stunted civil society.

    Otherwise, Japan will remain amongst its G8 brethren, as scholar Chalmers Johnson put it, “an economic giant, but political pygmy.”

    1640 WORDS
    (Previous five G8 Summits: Heiligendamm, Saint Petersburg, Gleneagles, Sea Island, Evian. How many did you remember?)
    ENDS

    5 Responses to “Japan Times ZEIT GIST: G8 Summit and the bad “security” habits brought out in Japan”

    1. E.P Lowe Says:

      And from the Mainichi forum, perhaps a reflection of how security trumps Yokoso! every time:

      Man-handled by ‘Police’ in Shinjuku Station

      I am travelling with my friend, a fellow Singaporean, in Japan for a period of 10 days.
      We have only been in Tokyo since 16 April 2008.
      On 18 April 2008 at approximately 11:30PM at Shinjuku station, specifically right outside the Toei-Oedo Line Train entrance (where the train ticket gantries are), we were stopped by two Japanese men, dressed both in blue shirts who flashed a badge at us that said “Police” and who repeatedly said “Passport” to us.
      Doubting the authenticity of these supposedly plain clothes “Police”, we tried to ask them if they spoke English and we tried to walk to the nearby train control station which was about 10 steps away from where we standing to ensure that these suspicious men were not posing as officers.
      As we took a step away, one of these “officers” grabbed my friend by the arm and tried to walk her away, she tried to get him to take his hands off and so did I, we repeatedly told them to take their hands off her, and when I tried to take the man’s hands off my friend, the other “officer” grabbed me and tried to lead me away.
      Feeling quite threatened at this point, I started shouting at them to let go, and there was a mild tussle between us, as we had to repeatedly get them to let go of both of us. We literally had to drag and shout ourselves over to the station control where I asked the station control officer whether they spoke English and whether they could help us because these two men were trying to grab us.
      The station officer looked confused and the two “police officers” started their spew of Japanese at us.
      One of the “police officers” once again grabbed me by both hands and tried to drag me into the station control room and I physically refused and asked them for the umpteenth time what they wanted.
      They kept asking for “Passport” and when I asked WHY they simply repeated clearly the only English word they knew “Passport”.
      I asked one of the “police officers” to get on the phone and get someone who DOES speak the English language to speak to me, at which point my friend said just show them the passport. I then opened my bag and showed them my passport while asking them:
      “Do you READ English? My passport is in English, if you can’t even read it why are you bothering to look at it?”
      One of the “police officers” saw my passport then asked me for my VISA???!!!!
      I then informed him that as a Singaporean visiting their country, i do not need a VISA to enter their country.
      All of a sudden, their attitudes changed and they spewed more Japanese at me and then I heard one word I did understand “ARIGATO”.
      The ridiculousness of the situation really hit me, these men who just man-handled us, were thanking us??
      And before I could ask them for their police badges again to note their numbers down, they disappeared.
      My friend did catch the name of one officer “Yamashita”.
      We have no idea even now what the whole incident was about.
      We would like to know and more importantly we would really like some form of apology for the way we were physically handled.
      This incident was extremely disturbing and I cannot believe that the Japanese police acted so agressively, like thugs in such a public area, without any ability whatsoever to explain themselves.
      It has marred the image of Japan for both of us, and for all i read about the polite and courteous culture of Japanese, we are now left to wonder if that only applies to non-governmental situations.
      We are contemplating if the rest of our journey will be interrupted in such an unpleasant and unsavoury way.

      A few burning questions that has arose from this incident:

      1) Are these police officers authorized to request our passports as they wish?
      2) Under what circumstances can these officers exercise this authority?
      3) Without any resistance in anyway from us, but just asking why they require our passports and trying to walk to the station control, where we feel safer, are they allowed to use physical restraint ?
      4) Are these male officers allowed to use physical restraint on females like us? Should they not have waited for a female officer?
      5) In such a predominantly tourist area like Shinjuku, where these officers are checking for foreign passports, should they not have received some form of language training such that they can explain why they need to see my passport? I do not believe that expecting them to be achieve a basic level of communication skills in the English language which is spoken in most of the rest of the world is unreasonable in anyway. What kind of training DO these officers receive?
      6) What in the world did my friend and I do that warranted the passport check and the physical restraint?

      I have forward the above to the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo to ask how I might be able to lodge a formal complaint.
      Y.L. 12:05 April 21, 2008

    2. Tony Says:

      Wait, this is on in July? Oh great… I’m planning on going to Japan in June-July for a holiday, I hope I don’t get caught up in this nonsense…

    3. A Says:

      E.P. Lowe,

      I’m sorry to hear about your encounter with the Japanese police. I’ve been in your position before and it can be a scary event.

      1) Yes, visitors to Japan are required to carry their passports at all times and show them to police or other authorized govt. officials upon request. Foreigners with visas are issued “gaijin cards” which can be carried in lieu of passports but still must be shown upon request.

      2) Debito has some particulars about this somewhere on this website but they are supposed to have a reason for stopping you. It’s a catch-22, really. According to the law that gives them policing power, they’re not authorized to stop people without cause. The law concerning you as a foreigner, though, pretty much gives them the right to demand your paperwork at any time, without cause. Even if they needed cause to stop you, it doesn’t work that way in practice. They can and will stop you for any, and no, reason at all. They can always say that you seemed nervous and were acting suspiciously. It doesn’t matter if you really were or not because it’s a subjective criteria.

      3) Whether restraint was appropriate or not is usually something that is handled by the court *after* you’ve been arrested. You’re wasting your breath protesting to the police about it. You’ll say you walked away toward a place where you would have felt safer. They’ll say that you tried to run away when they asked for your passport. You won’t win that argument unless you had the incident videotaped.

      4) Again, they had all the authorization they needed when you walked away. I’m not discounting your story and I can sympathize with you but that’s the way it is. If the police stop you and you don’t comply, you can expect to get rough treatment.

      To my knowledge, there is no special treatment granted to women being questioned on the street. Your question was whether male officers could restrain you. Well, obviously they can if they felt restraint was needed. It would be a little silly to watch someon run off into the distance as they waited for a female officer to arrive! ;-)

      5) I don’t know what kind of training they receive but I don’t think it’s a requirement for Japanese police officers in Tokyo to be conversational in English anymore than it is for officers in Paris (

    4. A Says:

      …Nevermind. I had a weird character in my text that seems to be cutting of the rest of my post. Trying it again. (Debito, feel free to delete my last attempt to post #5 and #6).

      5) I don’t know what kind of training they receive but I don’t think it’s a requirement for Japanese police officers in Tokyo to be conversational in English anymore than it is for officers in Paris (and it’s hit and miss there, too). It does, of course, make good sense for government officials in Japan’s capital to be fluent in English, if not some other 2nd language, but it’s not a requirement. Who knows, those officers may have been fluent in some other language besides English.

      As a vistor to a foreign country, the burden is upon you to be able to explain yourself in the local language. I know that’s not practical for tourists but, again, that’s just the way it is.

      6) Police in Japan don’t need a reason to harass foreigners. To be quite honest with you, judging by your story alone, you are very lucky that you didn’t end up in jail. They could have arrested you for obstruction when you walked away and they could have arrested you for assaulting police officers when you tried to remove their hands. You would have had problems much worse than a bad memory on your trip, then.

    5. Adi Says:

      [quote]1) Are these police officers authorized to request our passports as they wish?
      2) Under what circumstances can these officers exercise this authority?
      3) Without any resistance in anyway from us, but just asking why they require our passports and trying to walk to the station control, where we feel safer, are they allowed to use physical restraint ?
      4) Are these male officers allowed to use physical restraint on females like us? Should they not have waited for a female officer?
      5) In such a predominantly tourist area like Shinjuku, where these officers are checking for foreign passports, should they not have received some form of language training such that they can explain why they need to see my passport? I do not believe that expecting them to be achieve a basic level of communication skills in the English language which is spoken in most of the rest of the world is unreasonable in anyway. What kind of training DO these officers receive?
      6) What in the world did my friend and I do that warranted the passport check and the physical restraint?

      I have forward the above to the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo to ask how I might be able to lodge a formal complaint.
      Y.L. 12:05 April 21, 2008 [/quote]

      I`m sorry it happened to you, but answering your questions is easy. This is Fashist Police State and they can do whatever they want to. They have power as nowhere on the world Police have (if they were Police officers). You cannot to do anything, anything about it. Just tell everyone about this situation, your friends, family. Never visit japan. Find better places where human rights are respected,not here, not in Police State called Japan.

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