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  • Int’l Child Abduction issue update: Chinese found guilty in J court of abducting daughters, MOFA sets up panel on issue

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 7th, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  Three articles (two with original Japanese) below charting a couple of interesting developments regarding Japan as an international haven for child abductions.

    The first article is what happens when the shoe’s on the other foot, and the NJ parent goes on trial for allegedly abducting his or her child from Japan — the Japanese authorities eventually convict the NJ.  Asahi reports a Chinese father was found guilty (sentence suspended) in Japanese court of successfully, shall we say, “committing a Savoie” — actually getting his Japanese-Chinese daughters out of Japan (moreover after a J court awarded his ex-wife custody).  The story follows below, but one of the daughters came back to Japan from China and stayed on, and the father came over to get her — whereupon he was arrested and put on trial.  Now the mother wants Japan to sign the Hague Convention to protect Japanese from abductions (well, fine, but neither China nor Japan is a party, so there you go; oddly enough, accusations of spousal abuse — as in this case — are being leveled conversely as reasons for Japan NOT to sign the Convention).  Just sign the damn thing, already.

    The second article is from the Mainichi highly critical of the Japanese consulate in Shanghai for renewing the daughters’ J passports without consent of the J mother overseas.  Even though this is standard operating procedure when a Japanese spouse wants to bring the children back to Japan from overseas.  It only seems to make the news when the valve is used against the Japanese spouse.

    Final irony:  Quoth the judge who ruled in this case, “It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved.”  Well, that works both ways, doesn’t it?  Why has there never been a child returned by a Japanese court to a NJ parent overseas?  Why didn’t this matter in, for example, the Murray Wood Case, when overseas courts granted custody to the NJ father yet the Saitama Family Court ruled against him?  And how about the plenty of other cases slowly being racked up to paint a picture that NJ get a raw deal in Japanese courts?

    The third article (following the original Japanese versions of the first two) is how Minister Okada of the Foreign Ministry is setting up a special task force on this issue. Good.  But let’s see if it can break precedent by acknowledging that NJ have as much right to access and custody of their children as Japanese do.  Dubious at this juncture.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ================================
    Former Chinese husband found guilty of abducting daughters
    THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/12/4
    , Courtesy GB, FG, and HH
    http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200912040352.html

    In another case highlighting legal complexities if international marriages fall apart, a court found a Chinese man guilty of “abducting and taking overseas” his two daughters from their Japanese mother 10 years ago.

    The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court sentenced Qin Weijie, 55, to two years in prison, suspended for three years, on Thursday.

    According to the ruling, Qin and his Japanese wife were undergoing divorce procedures in June 1999, when he talked to their daughters, then 7 and 8, on a street in Akishima in western Tokyo. He took them on a flight to Hong Kong from Kansai Airport. The girls had been living with their mother at the time.

    When the divorce was finalized, a Japanese court gave the mother sole custody of the children.

    But Qin refused to hand over the daughters.

    “(The defendant) disrespected the law, and his behavior was malicious. The circumstances after his criminal act were not good, either,” Presiding Judge Manabu Kato said.

    According to Qin’s 44-year-old former wife, she was staying at a shelter with the two girls in 1999 to escape Qin’s physical abuse. She said she spent the next 10 years searching for her children, fearing that they may be abused.

    But the presiding judge said the daughters “grew up with a proper amount of love.” He also noted that the younger daughter chose to live with her father in China, even after returning to Japan temporarily earlier this year.

    After the ruling, Qin said: “In Shanghai, not only my second daughter but also my 1-year-old son from my remarriage are waiting. I’d like to go home soon and fulfill my duty as their father.”

    He had told the court that he took the girls to China for their own sake because “their life was unstable” in Japan at the time.

    Prosecutors had demanded a three-year prison term for Qin.

    When the daughters returned to Japan in January to renew their passports, the second daughter returned to China on her own will, but the elder daughter decided to stay with her mother.

    Qin was arrested in September when he entered Japan for the purpose of getting the older daughter back.

    According to the mother, the older daughter broke down in tears when she passed by the site where she was taken away 10 years ago. The girl is also being treated for an eating disorder, the mother said.

    “My daughter is afraid of my ex-husband, and she is emotionally hurt. How can we get back the lost 10 years?” the mother said.

    Disappointed with the suspended sentence, the mother urged the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction and adopt measures to protect mothers and children who have escaped from abuse.

    Under the convention, when a child has been taken from his or her country of residence, the child must be returned to that country.

    Neither Japan nor China is party to the Hague Convention.

    In recent months, cases of legal problems have surfaced concerning divorced Japanese women bringing their children to Japan without the consent of their former husbands overseas.

    When the mother reported the abduction to police, she was told there was nothing they could do.

    After she obtained legal custody, she asked the Foreign Ministry, the Chinese government, Diet members and lawyers for support. She even traveled to China several times but could not get her daughters back, she said.

    In 2004, Tokyo police finally accepted her criminal complaint against Qin.

    According to the welfare ministry, there were 37,000 international marriages in Japan last year, as well as 19,000 divorces among international couples. (IHT/Asahi: December 4,2009)
    ENDS
    =============================

    Japanese consulate renewed passports of children taken overseas without consent
    Mainichi Shinbun Dec 4, 2009
    , courtesy of TC
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20091204p2a00m0na015000c.html

    The Japanese consulate general in Shanghai renewed the passports of two girls without permission from their Japanese mother in violation of the Passport Law, after their Chinese father took them to China in the wake of a marriage breakup, it has been learned.

    The consulate general renewed the passports of the girls, now aged 18 and 17, in 2004, despite their mother’s repeated requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to renew the passports.

    As a result of the consulate general’s actions, the girls remained in China for five more years, and the situation was not resolved until the father came to Japan in September this year and was arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

    “As a result of the government’s mistake, I had to wait five years for the return of my daughters,” the children’s mother, who is in her 40s, said. “I want the government to move actively to protect the rights of children.”

    Passports for minors are valid for five years. Passport Law regulations state that permission must be obtained from a person who has custody of the children for the passports to be issued.

    Representatives of the woman said that she and the Chinese man, 55-year-old Qin Weijie, married in 1988 and lived in Tokyo, but she left due to domestic violence by Qin. In June 1999, Qin met his daughters as they were traveling to school near the home to which his wife had moved, and he took them to China.

    Qin and his wife divorced in 2000, and she was granted custody of the children. However, as she didn’t know where they were, she repeatedly asked the Foreign Ministry not to renew their passports. She also filed a criminal complaint against Qin accusing him of abducting the children and taking them overseas. However, the consulate general renewed the passports in January 2004.

    About five years later, when the deadline for renewing the passports of the children was again approaching, Qin contacted his former wife asking her to sign a consent form for renewal, but she said she wanted to meet them directly and confirm what they wanted to do, so the two came to Japan in January.

    Qin was arrested after entering Japan in September this year at Narita Airport, trying to take his elder daughter, who wanted to remain in Japan, back with him. His former wife said the eldest daughter was suffering from an eating disorder and panic attacks, due in part to violent behavior from Qin.

    On Thursday, Qin was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, after going on trial facing international abduction and other charges. In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Manabu Kato criticized Qin’s actions, saying, “His act of taking the children away without notice deserves criticism,” but noted, “At the time Qin also held custody of the children.” Commenting on the wife’s position, the judge stated: “It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved.”

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division admitted the mistake in renewing the passports without consent, but said it could not provide detailed background information on individual cases.

    (Mainichi Japan) December 4, 2009

    国際結婚破綻:母に無断で子の旅券更新…上海日本総領事館
    毎日新聞 2009年12月4日
    http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20091204k0000m040117000c.html
    国際結婚した日本人妻との生活が破綻(はたん)した後、2人の娘(18歳と17歳)を母国に連れ去ったとして、国外移送誘拐などの罪に問われた中国出身の会社員の事件に絡み、在上海日本総領事館が04年、2人の旅券を、旅券法の規則に反し、親権者である元妻(40代)の同意を取らないまま更新していたことが分かった。元妻は外務省に対し更新しないよう繰り返し要請していた。

    更新で2人はその後5年間中国にとどまることになり、元夫が今年9月に来日し逮捕されるまで解決が遅れる結果となった。元妻は「国のミスで5年間も娘の帰りを待たされた。国は子の人権を守るため積極的に動いてほしい」と訴えている。

    未成年者の旅券の有効期限は5年間で、旅券法施行規則は発給を受ける際には親権者の同意書が必要と定めている。

    元妻の弁護士らによると、夫婦は88年に結婚し東京都内で暮らしていたが、元妻は98年、夫だった中国出身の会社員、秦惟傑被告(55)による家庭内暴力に耐えかねて別居。秦被告は99年6月、元妻の別居先近くの路上で、小学校に登校途中だった娘2人(当時8歳と7歳)に声を掛けて連れ出し、中国に連れ去った。

    離婚は00年に成立、元妻は親権も認められた。居場所も分からない娘との再会を希望し、外務省に旅券を更新しないよう何度も要請。国外移送誘拐容疑で刑事告訴もした。しかし、上海日本総領事館は更新期限の04年1月、元妻の同意なしに2人の旅券を更新した。

    秦被告は5年が経過し旅券の再更新時期が迫ったため、元妻に「親権者の同意書にサインしてほしい」と連絡してきた。しかし、元妻は「直接会って意思を確認したい」と一時帰国を求め、2人は1月に来日した。結局、秦被告が今年9月、日本に残ることを希望した長女を連れ戻そうと成田空港から入国、逮捕されたことで、元妻は10年ぶりに長女との暮らしを取り戻すことができた。元妻によると、長女は秦被告の家庭内暴力などの影響で摂食障害やパニックを起こしているという。

    外務省海外邦人安全課は毎日新聞の取材に「同意書がないまま旅券を発行したのは確か」とミスを認めたが、原因については「個々の案件について詳しい経緯は話せない」としている。【青木純】

    ◇国外移送誘拐罪 父親に有罪判決
    この件で国外移送誘拐などの罪に問われた秦惟傑被告(55)に対し、東京地裁立川支部は3日、懲役2年、執行猶予3年(求刑・懲役3年)の判決を言い渡した。加藤学裁判長は「黙って連れ去った行為は非難に値する」としたが、「当時は被告も娘の親権を有していた」などと述べた。

    判決によると、秦被告は99年6月8日、別居していた妻の自宅から登校途中だった娘2人に声を掛け、同日中に国外に連れ去った。

    加藤裁判長は判決で「長い間愛するわが子と離れることを余儀なくされた(元妻の)精神的苦痛は察するに余りある」と述べた。【青木純】

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

    Foreign Ministry sets up division on child custody issue
    Japan Today/Kyodo News Wednesday December 2 2009
    , courtesy lots of people
    http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/foreign-ministry-sets-up-division-on-child-custody-issue

    TOKYO — The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday set up a division to handle such issues as whether Japan should sign the 1980 Hague Convention, seeking to protect children from the harmful effects of failed international marriages.

    Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nations that is not a party to the convention, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence.

    ‘‘I have heard opinions from European countries and America…and I would like to consider how to deal with the matter swiftly. But it is also a fact that there are difficult problems,’’ Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.

    The Division for Issues Related to Child Custody will consist of nine officials who are already serving the Foreign Ministry.

    In a related move, the ministry held the first Japan-France liaison meeting aimed at promoting information exchanges and information sharing regarding specific cases that involve the two countries.

    France is the first country with which Japan has set up such a bilateral mechanism in relation to the issue, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

    During the meeting, French officials handed a list of 35 cases in which Japanese women had returned to the country with their children after their marriages with French men failed.

    The French officials also called for Japan to facilitate the process of identifying the children’s locations or their health condition.

    ENDS

    8 Responses to “Int’l Child Abduction issue update: Chinese found guilty in J court of abducting daughters, MOFA sets up panel on issue”

    1. Al Says:

      Very Kafkaesque.

    2. Tom R. Says:

      “despite their mother’s repeated requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to renew the passports.”

      sounds like the wife wants more than just whats best for her children. now lets be really fair and throw the wife in the can over in china for 3 years since no agreement on custody can be reached and since it seems for both countries especially Japan that in signing the convention Japan feels like they are giving something up but will not receive anything in turn.

    3. David B Says:

      One small thing. In your write-up you have said ““committing a Savoie” — actually getting his Japanese-Chinese daughters out of Japan (moreover after a J court awarded his ex-wife custody).”

      I read the first article to indicate that the court awarded his ex-wife custody after he took the daughters to China. This understanding is backed up by the judges statement “At the time Qin also held custody of the children.”

      – “Custody” as in “possession” (which Qin definitely had since he skedaddled with the kids) or “custody” as in “legal custody” (which the family courts award when there’s a dispute)? Since there is no joint custody in Japan, that means that either he had it (and it was voided by his actions) or she had it (since they were living with her) but the kids went into his possession when they skedaddled. Dunno. The word in Japanese is still “shinken” in the article.

      I compare it with the Savoie Case because both involved attempts to skedaddle overseas with the kids. Qin succeeded, whereas Savoie did not (even though Savoie had in any case been legally awarded custody of the kids overseas).

    4. debito Says:

      Paul Toland reports on the US Congressional side of the issue, received December 4, 2009. FYI. Debito

      Yesterday, The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held the first Congressional Hearings on International Child Abduction in over 10 years. The hearings were widely covered and I hope some success can come out of it.

      Here is some of the press coverage from yesterday’s hearing (as of now).

      Congressman Chris Smith press release:
      http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=157907

      Asbury Park Press story:
      http://www.app.com/article/20091202/OPINION05/312020004

      AFP Newswire story:
      http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i3G1zO_vlTNuN_2QTCuH4iKWwzqQ

      Stars and Stripes:
      http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/stripes-central/new-law-could-help-servicemembers-whose-children-have-been-abducted

      Washington Times (scroll down to bottom of page):
      http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/03/washington-in-5-minutes-29960583//print/

      Yahoo News:
      http://real-us.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20091202/pl_afp/usjapanbrazilrightschild
      rendiplomacy_20091202230923

      A CNN story on the Hearings primarily focusing on David Goldman’s case, but also mentioning the other parents, including Erika’s case.
      http://us.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2009/12/02/ferre.brazilian.hearing.cnn.

      Congressman Smith’s press release has links to most testimonies, including my testimony. I HIGHLY recommend you read former Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson’s testimony. Congressman Wolf said it was one of the best testimonies he has ever heard, and he received loud applause from the people in the audience, and I agree it is extremely powerful, especially the preposterous way in which the State Department acts (and he’s a former Assistant Secretary of State). Read the part about why Brazil is ranked as having “patterns of non-compliance” with the Hague vs. being “non-compliant” and about why Brazilian citizens cannot have their visa privileges lifted in the United States.

      Also, Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, gave his suggestions for how to improve this issue. He referred to Japan directly in his testimony, but also went off script to discuss his belief that establishing a bilateral mechanism with Japan was MORE important than simply having Japan sign the Hague.

      Attorney Patricia Apy went into considerable detail on the legal
      difficulties faced by military parents overseas, as she is the Liaison to
      the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for
      Military Personnel.

      As far as the Parents’ remarks, I believe all four parents strongly presented our cases. Although I don’t have the complete transcript of the Question and Answer part of our session, I will address here my remarks during the Q&A. I spoke second during testimony (after David Goldman) and spoke last during the Q&A, so my Q&A remarks concluded the parent panel.

      Congressman Wolf asked what countries worldwide are the largest violators in terms of Parental Abductions. I answered that Japan accounts for nearly one-quarter of all abductions to non-Hague countries, so Japan stands head and shoulders above any non-Hague countries. In Ernie Allen’s later testimony, he stated that Japan was second among all nations, after Mexico.

      Congressman Wolf said that parents should ask and demand to meet with the Secretary of State AND the President. I replied that we HAVE asked again and again for meetings. I did discuss our experience with Assistant Secretary Campbell. I told the commission about Secretary Campbell’s confirmation hearing and his response to Senator Webb that he would meet with any parents who wanted to meet with him. Then I told them about our actual experience with Secretary Campbell, and how left-behind American parents living in Japan with American citizen abducted children were turned away when Secretary Campbell visited Japan, and were told that he was “too busy” and “did not have the time”.

      Then I proceeded to hold up 8X10 photos from the associated press of
      Secretary Campbell hosting Shigeru and Sakie Yokota and Akihiro and Kayoko Arimoto at the Ambassador’s residence…Japanese parents who had children abducted to North Korea over 30 years ago, on the same day that he turned away American parents with children abducted to Japan. It was interesting to watch CBS, NBC, CNN and others scrambling and crowding around our hearing table to get close up shots the photos of Secretary Campbell with the Yokotas.

      Congressman Smith had mentioned earlier about the French meeting bilaterally with the Japanese to begin discussions toward resolving the 35 outstanding abduction cases of French children. I expanded upon this by giving some background of how the Hague is not retroactive and will not help any of the parents with children currently abducted to Japan, and that we (parents) have again and again approached State about forming a bilateral working group with Japan to address existing cases, but have been met with a tepid response by State, and that our response from State has generally been that they want Japan to sign the Hague and this will then force Japan to change their laws and provide us with “improved access” to our children. In other words, the terrible tragedies of our cases are being used by State to try to get Japan to sign the Hague, but we won’t derive any benefit from it while our children are still young. I discussed how the French have approached the issue by putting existing cases first and foremost, while treating Japan signing the Hague as a secondary long-term strategic goal that will help in
      cases that do not yet exist, and it’s the French government that is getting
      results, not necessarily by having any children returned yet, but by at
      least having established a bilateral forum with Japan to discuss resolution of existing cases.

      Finally, I concluded by reading the following quote from Secretary Clinton
      on her first trip to Japan “I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have
      lost family members, and for so many years, never have heard anything about them or from them. I don’t know if I’ll be meeting as a secretary of state anymore than I will be meeting with them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. It’s important that their plight is not forgotten. I attach great importance to the abduction issue.” I then dropped the bomb that she was not talking about our issue, but rather she was talking about the abduction of Japanese citizens to North Korea over 30 years ago, and concluded bybsaying that Secretary Clinton has never once addressed our issue in any public forum OR met with a single left behind parent.

      I told the Congressman AND the press that it was up to them to spur the State Department into action. As parents, we have tried and tried, but now it is up to Congress and the Press to move the State Department forward in making this issue a central issue of US Foreign Policy.

      This was enough to get the Congressmen stirred up, so THE COMMITTEE will be preparing a letter for both the President and Secretary Clinton asking them to meet with Left-Behind parents. Congressman McGovern’s office will be providing parents with a copy of that letter once available. Additionally, Congressman Wolf said I needed to also meet with Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen on this issue. However, I am unsure of the chances of this actually happening.

      I want to thank everyone who made this hearing possible yesterday. Congressman Smith and other members of the Commission, the other left behind parents, David, Patrick and Tom, the attorneys and experts on the second panel, the many left-behind parents from Japan, Brazil and other areas who were present, as well as my family. Let’s hope this is a beginning. Sincerely, Paul

    5. marc Says:

      “The Japanese consulate general in Shanghai renewed the passports of two girls without permission from their Japanese mother in violation of the Passport Law,”

      They applicate Passport law for their interest when they want..
      My ex-japanese wife abducted my child when I’m at work,whitout my child’passport
      I have in my possession yet,she just going in Japanese embassy in Paris and they
      make her a paper valid for one time travel with my child,destination Japan..

    6. David B Says:

      Debito, I am not referring to the Japanese article. I was referring to the first article you linked (in english), which states “Qin and his Japanese wife were undergoing divorce procedures in June 1999, when he talked to their daughters, then 7 and 8, on a street in Akishima in western Tokyo. He took them on a flight to Hong Kong from Kansai Airport. The girls had been living with their mother at the time.

      When the divorce was finalized, a Japanese court gave the mother sole custody of the children.”

      To me it seems to clearly state the he took them before the divorce was finalised and as such both he and his wife would have custody. It was after this the court gave sole custody to the wife. In this respect I understand the comment by the judge (that I referenced in the previous comment) to indicate that it was legally he had custody (at least joint custody).

    7. Black Tokyo » Blog Archive » Possible 3-year prison term for parental kidnapping, Part 2 Says:

      […] here for the rest of the […]

    8. Jerry Says:

      I agree with David in that while I see some similarity between the cases this looks to be different than that Savoie case. The Savoie’s had divorced, the wife had custody, and she skedaddled then the husband tried to get the kids back (admittedly after getting custody awarded due to her absconding with them). In this case the wife had moved out with the kids and was living in a shelter when the husband took them and left – they were in the divorce process but had not divorced.

      Regardless, what you are failing to do is show that there is a racial component to the judicial decisions. We need to see that the same standard applied to NJ wife and J husband before we can make that sort of a statement (as opposed to a gender bias issue which is what this looks like – i.e. judges deciding the children are obviously going to be in a better situation with their mother than their father which happens in the majority of J/J divorces).

      Now if you can find data to show similar treatment of NJ wife/J husband divorce and custody situations (NJ wife gets custody, J husband absconds with the kids with no repercussions) to the NJ husband/J wife that you have been documenting you will have a strong and useful argument.

      – Agreed. I have heard of cases of NJ wife with J husband absconding with impunity. Need a good writeup, however. Given how broken this system is, no doubt it’ll appear.

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