Hi Blog. I received word from Paul Wong yesterday that NHK would be doing a segment this morning on child abductions after divorce, and Japan’s negligence towards signing the Hague Convention on this.
As the Japan Times reports:
Japan’s allies urge government to sign Hague convention on child abduction
By KAZUAKI NAGATA
Friday, May 22, 2009
Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090522a4.html
The United States, Canada, France and the U.K. jointly urged the Japanese government Thursday to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction, which is aimed at preventing parents from wrongfully keeping or taking their children to their countries before and after they divorce.
“Our joint statement demonstrates that very clearly Japan’s allies are united in their concern regarding this tragic issue of international child abduction,” said Michele Bond, a deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs for overseas citizen services at the U.S. Department of State, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. “We are acting together at this point to ensure that our concern for the children is heard.”
Diplomats from the U.S., Canadian, French and British embassies attended the press conference.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that entered into force between signatory members on Dec. 1, 1983.
The convention states that children who are abducted from their country of residence, or retained in a state that is not their country of normal residence, must be returned promptly to their original country of residence.
More than 80 countries have signed the convention, but Japan is the only nonsignatory state among the Group of Seven nations.
Among abductions involving Japanese whose parents have wrongfully taken or kept their children, Britain has reported 36 cases since 2003, with none of them resolved. There are currently 11 active cases, said David Fitton, deputy head of mission to the British Embassy in Japan. France has had 26 cases, half of which are still active, and the U.S has 73 active cases.
Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090522a4.html
I watched the NHK report this morning, and was, frankly, gravely disappointed. After giving some stats on international divorce (around 20,000 cases last year, about double that ten years ago), NHK gave three case studies in brief:
1) One of an an American father in America who had lost his child to his abducting Japanese ex-wife. Point: How he loves his child and would like to be part of her life.
2) One of a Japanese mother with custody of kids trapped in America working waitress jobs because her Japanese passport has been impounded by an American court ruling (which is bullshit, as she can go to any Japanese consulate in the US and get new passports without the permission of both parents; the converse is not true), with bonus time devoted to how much she and her daughters would like to return home, see relatives, and eat Japanese food.
3) One of a Japanese mother from an international divorce who abducted her kids to Japan; she opposes Japan signing the Hague Convention because of her violent American husband (which she somehow blamed on differing cultures), and wouldn’t want to give up custody to him.
Then we had a Hitotsubashi prof who said Japan must sign because child abduction was unjust. And a lawyer named Onuki (who has represented these cases before, and claimed in the international media that somehow 90% of these abductions are due to NJ domestic violence.)
It even concluded with the typical relativities (i.e. how everyone’s doing it, therefore Japanese can too), mentioning in passing alleged cases of how NJ mothers were abducting Japanese kids overseas (meaning that now suddenly Japanese fathers were kawaisou; the bottom line was that Japanese are being kawaisoued). The MOFA was quoted as not being able to comment on whether Japan would be able to sign Hague.
No mention at all was made by NHK that there has not been a single case of children being returned to the NJ parent by Japanese courts (the converse is untrue), that Japanese are committing crimes (and not honoring overseas court custody rulings, such as the Murray Wood Case), or that (and I speak from experience of not seeing my kids for about five years now) the Koseki system will deny all title and access to Japanese parents too after divorce.
NHK tried too hard to be sympathetic to either abducting Japanese mothers, or the position of Japanese in general (not the kids and how they’re affected by not having both parents in their lives). What a crock.
Consider that biased coverage in light of the following articles. If you find the NHK report online, please feel free to send a link to the Comments section.
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, May 24, 2009 Issue No. 518
After the U.S. presidential election, the first foreign trip by his new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was to Japan. This was presumably to send a symbol to the Japanese that the U.S. values their relationship and not to cash in all those U.S. Treasuries that they are holding! Then in a symbolic action within a symbolic trip, Clinton visited with the Japanese families whose children and relatives were abducted by the North Koreans over a 30-year period since the 1970’s.
Clinton told reporters, “On a very personal and, you know, human basis, I don’t know that I’ll be meeting as a secretary of state any more than I will be meeting with them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister.” This was the right thing to say in response to a situation that has the Japanese public outraged.
But there was one segment of the population in Japan that felt Clinton’s words were more like daggers than bandages. That segment is the foreign parents of children from international marriages, who have had their children kidnapped by the Japanese parent back to Japan, never to see them again. For these people the North Korean abductions of possibly 70 or 80 people pales into insignificance when compared to the hundreds (yes, that’s the number the CRC-Japan people are stating) of kids abducted to Japan.
And while there have been a handful of those North Korean abductees returned to Japan, there has NEVER been a successful return of a mixed nationality child to the foreign parent through diplomacy or court action. Further, U.S. officials say they only know of 3 cases where mutually agreed returns have occurred. And yet many court actions have been brought against Japanese abductors over the years.
This unbelievable state of affairs has started to cause major headaches for both legal and diplomatic agencies of Japan’s allies, and the U.S. in particular appears to be looking for ways to pressure Japan to mend its ways and to institute the necessary legal changes needed so as to support and enforce an eventual signing of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven not to have signed this important treaty.
The pressure ratcheted up several weeks ago when the embassies of the U.S., Canada, Britain, and France, along with various representatives from other nations and foreign parents trying to get their kids back, participated in a joint conference to discuss the issue and taking action that will precipitate change. While similar conferences have happened in previous years without much more than a bout of hand-wringing, this time, the U.S. and the other Japanese allies held a rare press conference to urge Japan to sign the treaty. Furthermore, they provided information on cases where foreign parents have been cut off from their kids.
The U.S. said it has been informed of 73 abduction cases of 104 kids with a U.S. parent but where that parent is not resident in Japan, and another 29 cases where the U.S. parent is here. The other allied nations reported an additional 95 cases. As this writer can testify, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Most foreign parents give up after going through the farcical proceedings of the Japanese Family Courts — realizing that there is no justice when there is no law to even enact justice in the first place.
For, above all, we need to remember that Japan has no concept of joint child custody and that abduction by one parent is not a crime. The judiciary in its wisdom still follows the feudal “Iie system” (House system) whereby it believes that the child should belong to one house only. Certainly, having a child undergo emotional surgery by cutting off one of the parents is a lot cleaner than the bickering and fighting that many western parents go through in their shared custody divorces. But for those parents adult enough to share their kids civilly, the law offers only heartbreak and no compromise. Officially, of the 166,000 children involved in divorces in Japan every year, less than 20% of them wind up with the father, and of course in the case of foreign fathers, the number is zero. One particularly poignant case of child abduction does not even include the Japanese parent absconding with the child, but rather her parents — who were able to convince a Japanese judge to give the child to them based on trumped up charges, rather than return her to her foreign father.
The story of Paul Wong is a story that epitomizes the problem — that of the judiciary and their slanted views on untrustworthy foreigners versus nice decent Japanese. Wong was happily married in the U.S. to a Japanese women, Akemi, and after many years of partnership, they finally had a daughter, Kaya. Unfortunately, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor before the birth in 2004 and this got much worse following the birth. Akemi and daughter Kaya went to stay with the grandparents in Japan one last time before she died in 2005. Akemi on her death bed asked Wong to leave Kaya in Japan with her parents for a while, so that Kaya could learn something about her heritage. Wong kept his promise, and after his wife died he made the decision to settle down in Japan so that Kaya could continue seeing her grandparents. He left Kaya with the grandparents while working his lawyer job in Hong Kong and looking for a transfer to Japan. He commuted back and forth for a year and eventually found a position in Japan.
After returning to Japan, he found that the grandparents wouldn’t let Kaya return to him, and they eventually claimed to the police that Wong had sexually molested Kaya during a visit — something which has since been disproven after a medical exam. Wong took the case to court, and despite evidence that contradicted the grandparents claims, the Judge decided that “The grandparents would have no reason to not make such claims,” so he sided with them and awarded custody to them, despite them being in their 70’s. After they die, Kaya will become a ward of the state.
And thus Wong was arbitrarily banned from access to his own daughter. He knows where she lives and where she goes to school, but thanks to trespass laws, he is unable to visit her. Wong reckons one of the grandparents’ motives for taking Kaya is the monthly government stipend they get for her, given that they are desperately poor themselves — and of course now they have a small piece of their dead daughter, so the emotional ties must be strong as well. So what to do? Wong has since spent millions of yen trying to work with the Japanese legal system, but has been stymied at every step. As other foreign parents quickly find out, there is no pre-trial disclosure of evidence and no cross-examination rights. Further, there is no ability to bring in outside counselors and child psychology experts to testify for either side. In the end, the judge makes their own decision, based on serial presentations, with little apparent interest in whether each side is telling the truth. Indeed, several years ago, this writer interviewed a retired Family Court judge who intimated that he expected both sides in a child custody dispute to be lying, so “evidence” didn’t really mean much.
So there really isn’t much that Wong can do, except hope that the recent pressure for Japan to sign the Hague convention will start a legal review of the current family law system. There are over 15 domestic NPO groups who are hoping for the same changes — since these outmoded laws also affect Japanese parents as much as foreign ones. But we think change will be unlikely. So perhaps Wong should take the advice of an old friend of this writer, who had a single piece of advice to counter the Japanese condition…
“…Get yourself another family, and next time don’t get divorced in Japan!”
For more on this subject, go to www.crnjapan.net.
Japan urged to sign treaty against parental child abductions
(Mainichi Japan) June 2, 2009, Courtesy of Jeff K.
Diplomats from the U.S., France, Canada and the U.K. are pressing Japan to sign an international treaty against parental child abductions.
The number of cases of parental child abduction being committed by Japanese is rising sharply. Officials from the four embassies say there have been 168 reported cases to date involving 214 children, and that there could be many more.
As a result, they are urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention, which came into force in 1983 and provides a legal means for returning abducted children. The country’s refusal to sign means that the government is not legally required to release any information in such cases and prevents it from soliciting help in repatriating children to Japan.
“If the well-being of the child is given top priority, he or she should be brought up with links to both parents. For a situation to not be addressed at all is a big problem,” said the officials during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on May 21.
The U.S. Embassy reported one case of a Japanese woman divorcing her American husband, taking their child back to Japan with her and preventing her former husband from seeing the child. In another case, letters sent by a foreign father living abroad were returned, and all contact was effectively severed.
In the U.S., such parental abductions are considered a crime, with suspects placed on international watch lists by the FBI in some cases.
However, critics say that signing the convention will prevent Japan from protecting its citizens fully.
“The attitude of the government is non-involvement in civil affairs,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Legal Affairs Bureau.
“However, with the number of international marriages and divorces rising, the possibility of signing is under consideration.”
毎日新聞 2009年5月31日 22時59分