DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 29, 2009

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Hi All. Before I start this Newsletter, please keep an eye out next Tuesday, June 2 (Wednesday in the ruralities) for my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column. Topic: How the GOJ and media avoid the very term “racial discrimination” in public debates for political reasons.

I’ll also be attending the German Institute for Japanese Studies three-day Tokyo symposium on Japan’s imploding population and demographic challenges. More at
http://www.dijtokyo.org/?page=event_detail.php&p_id=565
Say hello if we bump into each other!

Now for:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 29, 2009

Table of Contents:
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THE SHADOW OF BIG BROTHER
1) Metropolis & Japan Today: “Proposed NJ resident registry card creates Big Brother concerns”
2) Japan Times on May 24 2009 new IC Chip Gaijin Card protest
3) Brazilian MTV on May 24 Protests on proposed IC Chip Gaijin Cards
4) Kyodo: GOJ proposes GPS tracking of criminals. SITYS.
5) Charles McJilton on how visa overstayers too get Gaijin Cards
6) Various respondents: Police crackdowns in Roppongi and elsewhere, Olympic Bid cleanup?
7) Sankei: Police “cleaning up” Roppongi of shitsukoi NJ

TANGENTS
8 ) Kyodo: 2 NJ defendants among first 13 new lay jury cases
9) NYT: Japanese Fans Mobilize to Keep Valentine as Their Manager
10) Sunday Tangent: America’s Japan Society now led by a Japanese
11) Sunday Tangent: Economist on UN racism conference fiasco, April 2009

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES
12) Monty DiPietro’s new play “Honiefaith”, June 5, 6, 7, Tokyo Shinjuku
13) Trans-Pacific Radio’s Live Seijigiri June 4 7:30 PM Shibuya Pink Cow

… and finally…
14) Japan Times May 19, 2009: “IC you: Bugging the Alien” article on new Gaijin Cards, full text
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
Freely forwardable

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THE SHADOW OF BIG BROTHER

1) Metropolis & Japan Today: “Proposed NJ resident registry card creates Big Brother concerns”

Metropolis and Japan Today: If enacted, the bills submitted by the Cabinet in March would revise three laws the Basic Resident Registration Law, the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and the Special Law on Immigration Control with the government looking to pass them before the end of the current ordinary Diet session on June 3. Once passed, the revisions would become effective in less than three years.

According to the immigration bureau, the government’s main aims are to simplify the administration of foreigners by having the bureau handle nearly all paperwork related to immigration and residency; reduce the burden on foreigners living legally in Japan by extending visa periods and relaxing re-entry rules; ensure all legal aliens join social insurance and state pension schemes; track the movement of foreigners more closely; and clampdown on illegal aliens such as visa overstayers by denying them the right to carry the new card.

However, opposition parties, legal organizations and migrant activists have slammed the revisions. They claim the changes could impose excessive fines for failure to carry the card, make notification of status changes less convenient, and lead to undue dissemination of personal information and excessive monitoring of foreigners…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3291

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2) Japan Times on May 24 2009 new IC Chip Gaijin Card protest

Opponents of change to immigration law fear loss of privacy, other human rights violations
The Japan Times Monday, May 25, 2009 (excerpt)

JT: More than 200 people rallied in Tokyo’s Shinbashi district Sunday to protest government-sponsored immigration bills they claim would violate the privacy of foreign residents and strengthen government control over them.

The protesters say the proposed system would allow the government to punish non-Japanese who fail to properly report their personal information, and could even make it possible for immigration authorities to arbitrarily revoke their visas.

The bills now before the Diet “would jeopardize the residency right and right of life (for foreign residents). Therefore, we strongly oppose the bills,” said Nobuyuki Sato of Research-Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan, one of the organizers of the protest rally and a meeting on the proposed legal changes

Rest of the article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090525a1.html

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3) Brazilian MTV on May 24 Protests on proposed IC Chip Gaijin Cards

The Japanese media studiously avoided saying much about the May 24th Protests. So here’s seven minutes on Brazilian MTV. Have a look. In Portuguese, Japanese, and English. Courtesy of Captain Chris.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3392

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4) Kyodo: GOJ proposes GPS tracking of criminals. SITYS.

Kyodo: The Justice Ministry will begin research on how other countries employ satellite-based global positioning systems to locate people released from prison and to see if the systems work at discouraging repeat offenders.

COMMENT: I posted this on Facebook earlier this week, and got people saying GPS and RFID are two separate technologies, so it doesn’t matter. Those who wish to discuss that here, go ahead. My point remains that the political will is there to bell the cat, er, the criminal. And given the GOJ’s propensity to treat foreigners as criminals (as opposed to immigrants), and to give the police free reign to rein in crime, to me it’s only a matter of time before fitting the transponders in the new proposed IC Chip Gaijin Cards leads to tracking them.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3364

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5) Charles McJilton on how visa overstayers too get Gaijin Cards

Charles McJilton: For most foreigners in Japan, receiving a visa to stay in Japan begins the road of registering at the local ward, applying for a gaijin card, opening a bank account, and eventually paying taxes. All of these things are milestones signifying that one is a bona fide member of society. But how does one survive if the do not have a visa? How do they go about legitimizing their existence, and is it possible?

There is an unwritten rule among the foreigners I deal with and that is we do not ask about one’s visa status. There is no reason to ask. So, in 2002 I was having coffee with Miss X when she casually told me, “I have all my paperwork except my visa.” She then pulled out a folder filled with documents. And sure enough, one was a copy of her foreign registration at her local ward. And then she showed me her gaijin which had written in black no permission to stay. She explained that each year she was required to “renew” her gaijin card.

Then she explained why she registered. As registered foreigner and single mother she was eligible for support from the government for specific things related to her son. For example, when she gave birth, the ward office picked a part of the hospital bill. When her son went to daycare while she was working the ward stepped in and provided some assistance. And when her son entered elementary school the ward subsidized his lunch meals. This would not have been possible had she not registered her son…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3303

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6) Various respondents: Police crackdowns in Roppongi and elsewhere, Olympic Bid cleanup?

Debito.org has received word of police crackdowns and raids in Roppongi these days, perhaps in a bid to weed out the marijuana so popular in sumo circles, perhaps in a bid to clean things up for the 2016 Olympic Bid. The US Embassy is also advising Americans to stay away. Feel free to share similar experiences in this blog entry.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3305

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7) Sankei: Police “cleaning up” Roppongi of shitsukoi NJ

An interesting article from May 26’s Sankei, reporting about how enjoyment of Tokyo’s Roppongi party district is being spoiled by over-persistent street touts (a sentiment I somewhat agree with, but), who lead people to bars that even the US Embassy is cautioning against. So we have the new “Clean Town Roppongi Action Group” launching into the breach, putting up cautionary billets in English and Japanese (advertising “punishments”), organizing patrols and volunteer policing groups, and advocating “safety for each resident” (fortunately rendered as juumin, not kokumin). All this, says the article, justifiable under the new controversial Tokyo City ordinance banning “public disturbances”, passed last April.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3385

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TANGENTS

8 ) Kyodo: 2 NJ defendants among first 13 new lay jury cases

Kyodo: Prosecutors nationwide indicted on Friday nine criminal suspects, including two murder suspects, to be tried under the newly introduced lay jury system, bringing the total number of such cases to 13. A day after the introduction of the system, the two murder suspects were indicted by Tokyo and Fukuoka prosecutors. Suspects in other serious crimes such as robbery resulting in injuries or attempted arson were indicted the previous day, but murder suspects were not included.

COMMENT: That was quick! Two days into the new system, and two of the first thirteen indictments are foreign? That works out to a fifteen percent NJ crime rate…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3357

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9) NYT: Japanese Fans Mobilize to Keep Valentine as Their Manager

NYT: With over 50,000 signatures on a petition to keep [Bobby] Valentine, this is a struggle, the fans believe, that goes to the heart of Japanese baseball. They see Valentine as a positive influence who is leading the team and the sport toward a more viable future by promoting more access to players and more fan-friendly marketing concepts.

At the same time, they view the current front office, led by the team president, Ryuzo Setoyama, as more interested in the old status quo, when, they contend, fans were treated less as coveted customers and more as people expected to attend games out of a sense of duty. Although the team insists that Valentine simply makes too much money to be retained in 2010, the fans believe other factors may be in play.

“This problem is more than Japanese baseball itself; it’s about the Japanese society,” Kazuhiro Yasuzumi, a 39-year-old Marines fan and leader of the protest, said through an interpreter. He said that people with power and influence in Japan did not necessarily appreciate someone like Valentine, who has never been bashful about offering his opinion.

Valentine is indeed paid a lot of money: $3.9 million per season. When, and if, he goes, he will take with him some significant accomplishments, starting with the championship he won in 2005, the Marines’ first in 31 years. It was after that feat that he became the only foreigner to win the prestigious Shoriki Award for contributions to Japanese baseball.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3343

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10) Sunday Tangent: America’s Japan Society now led by a Japanese

AFP: As Japanese culture seeps into the American mainstream, a key US institution devoted to Japan has crossed a threshold its new head is Japanese. And he is out to make sure Japan’s influence gets noticed.

Motoatsu Sakurai, a former executive and ambassador, took over last month as president of the Japan Society founded in 1907 by members of New York high society intrigued by a nation then completely foreign to most Americans.

He conceded that his appointment presented an intriguing cross-cultural question while plenty of Japanese and Americans study each other’s country, how does a Japanese lead Americans in their dealings with Japan?

“I don’t think it would be unnatural,” Sakurai said with Japanese understatement when asked whether it made sense for a Japanese to run the Japan Society.

“In many ways, Japanese and Americans see the same things in a different way,” he told AFP.

“I think it is good for the Japan Society since its inception an American institution to have an injection of new ideas, especially as the Japanese are one partner in this bilateral relationship.”

“This was not a political statement saying, ‘Gosh, what an amazing thing, we’re picking a Japanese as the head of the Japan Society,'” Heleniak said. “New York is an international city so nationality doesn’t matter.”

COMMENT: Nice if that logic applied more on the Japan side of the equation.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3197

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11) Sunday Tangent: Economist on UN racism conference fiasco, April 2009

Here’s what happened some weeks ago, regarding how the April UN conference on racism, the Olympics for human rights worldwide, turned into a bit of a fiasco, what with competing interests hijiacking the event. Again. A bit old, but still worth blogging on Debito.org nonetheless, because it shows that what goes on in Japan is comparatively small potatoes, and how our issues are probably not going to get the attention from outside that they should. Pity. Racism is one hard mother to define and defeat.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3158

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UPCOMING PERFORMANCES

12) Monty DiPietro’s new play “Honiefaith”, June 5, 6, 7, Tokyo Shinjuku

When a Filipino hostess’ dismembered body is discovered in a Tokyo coin locker, Manila newspaper reporter Victor Balmori is dispatched to Japan. Balmori is looking for a story, he finds a nightmare.

Written by long-time Tokyoite Monty DiPietro, “Honiefaith” is a three-act play about people pushed into extraordinary circumstances demanding difficult choices. The premiere of “Honiefaith” opens the Tokyo International Players’ new “Second Stage” series, and is being directed by TIP president Jonah Hagans.

June 5,6,7, 2009 at Our Space Theater:

The venue, Our Space, is located off the north side of Koshu Kaido street, a three-minute walk from Hatagaya Station, or a five-minute taxi from Shinjuku Station’s south exit. More information, map, links, and press releases here at Debito.org.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3330

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13) Trans-Pacific Radio’s Live Seijigiri June 4 7:30 PM Shibuya Pink Cow

The first Trans-Pacific Radio live edition of Seijigiri will take place at the Pink Cow in Shibuya on Thursday, June 4 from about 7:30 p.m.

The event will open with a presentation on Trans-Pacific Radio, followed by the live Seijigiri. After that, there will be a special announcement and demonstration of TPR’s most recent project.

The live show itself will involve Garrett, Ken and the audience. The essential concept is that Seijigiri and the audience will have no barrier between them, and the show will be an interactive event.

More at
http://www.transpacificradio.com/2009/05/27/seijigiri-live-near-the-budokan-thursday-june-4/

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… and finally…

14) JAPAN TIMES: May 19, 2009
THE ZEIT GIST
IC you: bugging the alien
New gaijin cards could allow police to remotely track foreigners
By ARUDOU DEBITO

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090519zg.html
Version with links to sources at
http://www.debito.org/?p=3334

When the Japanese government first issued alien registration cards (aka gaijin cards) in 1952, it had one basic aim in mind: to track “foreigners” (at that time, mostly Korean and Taiwanese stripped of Japanese colonial citizenship) who decided to stay in postwar Japan.

Gaijin cards put foreigners in their place: Registry is from age 16, so from a young age they were psychologically alienated from the rest of Japanese society. So what if they were born and acculturated here over many generations? Still foreigners, full stop.

Even today, when emigrant non-Japanese far outnumber the native-born, the government tends to see them all less as residents, more as something untrustworthy to police and control. Noncitizens are not properly listed on residency registries. Moreover, only foreigners must carry personal information (name and address, personal particulars, duration of visa status, photo, and for a time fingerprints) at all times. Gaijin cards must also be available for public inspection under threat of arrest, one year in jail and 200,000 in fines.

However, the Diet is considering a bill abolishing those gaijin cards.

Sounds great at first: Under the proposed revisions, non-Japanese would be registered properly with residency certificates (juuminhyou). Maximum visa durations would increase from three years to five. ID cards would be revamped. Drafters claim this will “protect” (hogo) foreigners, making their access to social services more “convenient.”

However, read the fine print. The government is in fact creating a system to police foreigners more tightly than ever.

Years ago, this column (“The IC You Card,” Nov. 22, 2005) examined this policy in its larval stage. Its express aims have always been to target non-Japanese in the name of forestalling crime, terrorism, infectious diseases and the scourge of illegal aliens. Foreigners, again, are trouble.

But now the policy has gone pupal. You might consider helping chloroform the bug before it hatches. Here’s why:

The “new gaijin cards,” or zairyuu kaado (ZRK), are fundamentally unchanged: The usual suspects of biometric data (name, address, date of birth, visa status, name and address of workplace, photograph etc. i.e. everything on the cover of your card) will be stored digitally on an embedded computer chip. Still extant is the 24/7 carrying requirement, backed by the same severe criminal punishments.

What has changed is that punishments will now be even swifter and stricter. If you change any status recorded on your chip and don’t report it to the authorities within 14 calendar days, you face a new 200,000 fine. If you don’t comply within three months, you risk losing your visa entirely.

Reasonable parameters? Not after you consider some scenarios:

  • Graduate high school and enroll in college? Congratulations. Now tell the government or else.
  • Change your job or residence? Report it, even if your visa (say, permanent residency or spouse visa) allows you to work without restrictions anywhere.
  • Get a divorce, or your spouse dies? Condolences. Dry your eyes, declare the death or marital mess right away, and give up your spouse visa.
  • Suffering from domestic violence, so you flee to a shelter? Cue the violins: A Japanese husband can now rat on his battered foreign wife, say she’s no longer at his address, and have her deported if she doesn’t return to his clutches.

Foreigners are in a weaker position than ever.

Now add on another, Orwellian layer: bureaucratic central control (ichigen kanri). Alien registration is currently delegated to your local ward office. Under the new system, the Ministry of Justice will handle everything. You must visit your friendly Immigration Bureau (there are only 65 regional offices not even two per prefecture) to stand in line, report your changes and be issued with your card.

Try to get there within what works out to be a maximum of 10 weekdays, especially if you live in a remote area of Japan (like, say, Hokkaido or an Okinawan island). Then try to explain away a lost workday in this corporate culture.

Now consider refugees. They don’t even get an ID card anymore. They won’t be able to open a bank account, register to attend schools, enter hospital, or qualify for social insurance anymore. No matter; our country accepts fewer than a few dozen refugees every year; they shouldn’t have come here anyway, thinking they could impose upon our peaceful, developed country.

That’s still not the worst of it. I mentioned that embedded computer chip. The ZRK is a “smart card.” Most places worldwide issue smart cards for innocuous things like transportation and direct debit, and you have to swipe the card on a terminal to activate it. Carrying one is, at least, optional.

Not in Japan. Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.

In other words, the IC chip is a transponder — a bug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contactless_smart_card#Identification

http://www.dameware.com/support/kb/article.aspx?ID=300080

Now imagine these scenarios: Not only can police scan and detect illegal aliens, but they can also uncover aliens of any stripe. It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?

Moreover, this system will further encourage racial profiling. If police see somebody who looks alien yet doesn’t show up on their scanner (such as your naturalized author, or Japan’s thousands of international children), they will more likely target you for questioning as in: “Hey, you! Stop! Why aren’t you detectable?”

I called the Immigration Bureau last week to talk about these issues. Their resident experts on ZRK security said that data would be protected by PIN numbers. The bureau could not, however, answer questions about how police would enforce their next-generation gaijin card checkpoints. Those police are a different agency, they said, and there are no concrete guidelines yet.

Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.

One question lingers: Why would the government scrap the current alien policing system? For nearly six decades, it effectively kept foreigners officially invisible as residents, yet open to interrogation and arrest due to a wallet-size card. What’s broke?

Local government. It’s too sympathetic to the needs of its non-Japanese residents.

Remember Noriko Calderon, whose recently deported parents came to Japan on false passports? Did you ever wonder how she could attend Japanese schools and receive social services while her parents were on expired visas?

Because local governments currently issue the gaijin cards. At their own discretion, they can even issue ID to visa overstayers. Rendered as zairyu shikaku nashi (no status of residence), the card can be used to access social services. They can live relatively normal lives, as long as they avoid police gaijin-card checkpoints.

Why are local governments so sweet? With high concentrations of non-Japanese residents, many see foreigners as human beings needing assistance. After all, they keep local factories humming, pay taxes and add life to local infrastructure. Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture and Yokkaichi, in Mie, have long petitioned the national government for improvements, such as facilitating foreign access to public services and education, and easing registry and visa applications.

After years of deaf ears, the central government took action. Under the rhetoric of “smoking out illegal aliens,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005 pledged to “make Japan the world’s safest country again” by halving the number of visa overstayers by 2010.

Never mind that the overall trend in Japan is toward devolving power to the provinces (chiho bunken); Japan now wants to rein in local governments because they poke holes in their dike. It’s still a shame the proposed plugs make life impossible for refugees, and harder for any law-abiding non-Japanese resident with a busy life.

Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.

This is counterproductive. As we’ve said in this column many times before, an aging Japan needs immigration. These new gaijin cards will make already perpetually targeted foreigners (and foreign-looking Japanese) even less comfortable, less integrated members of society.

Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?

Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.

The coalition group NGO Committee against Resident Alien Card System (www.repacp.org/aacp) has as its banner “Less policing, more genuine immigration policy that promotes multiethnic co-existence.”

On Sunday afternoon, there will be a demonstration in Tokyo against the new gaijin cards. Do attend if so inclined.
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All for this month. Thanks for reading!

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates and RSS at http://www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 29, 2009 ENDS

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