Hi Blog. Somehow this never got archived last year, but it’s an important report. And since I’ve got a follow-up article to blog here after this, let me add this to the blog out of turn and refer to it in my current report. Arudou Debito in Tokyo.
From: Arudou Debito
Subject: [debito.org] Taro Kono and MOFA Tokyo mtgs update, Aug 1, 2006
Hello All. Arudou Debito here emailing you from near Todai in Tokyo. Two more mailings to send you before summer break. The first is an update on some things that happened during my current Tokyo trip. As follows:
1) DIETMEMBER KOUNO TARO PRESS CONFERENCE JULY 31
2) FOREIGN MINISTRY FORUM ON UN CERD AND DIENE REPORT JULY 28
Preliminary report dated August 1, 2006. Freely forwardable.
DIETMEMBER KOUNO TARO PRESS CONFERENCE
AT THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB, YURAKUCHO, TOKYO
Monday, July 31, 2006, 12PM-1:30PM
Attending as a guest of a FCCJ member, I listened to Lower House Dietmember, Senior Vice Justice Minister, and Prime Ministerial hopeful KOUNO Tarou give his thoughts at a luncheon on the future of Japan.
Kouno, 43, comes from a family of politicians. His father, current Dietmember Kouno Youhei, is a former cabinetmember and long-respected political powerhouse himself. A graduate of Georgetown University in the US and former employee of Fuji Xerox, Tarou is bilingual in English and gave his speech in that language. Now in his fourth term, Tarou was the first to announce his candidacy for the Prime Minister’s job back in May because, he said in the press conference, he was disturbed by the next-likely Prime Minister, Abe Shinzou, stating that the latter had stated the current pension system was financially sound despite the clear demographics of a shrinking Japanese population. His website can be found at http://www.taro.org.
His ideas have made some media waves (particularly his proposed 3% cap on the foreign population), and I have critiqued his proposed immigration policy plan in one of my Japan Times columns (July 11, 2006, see http://www.debito.org/japantimes071106.html).
He opened with his platform on energy, education, taxation, and pension policies, which I will skip for the purposes of this newsletter. When he opened the floor for questions, his answers were fortunately very indicative.
When asked about where he had gotten the “3% foreign population cap” (when if the population is projected to drop to 100 million by 2050, this means that the foreign population can only increase by another million–from the current population of 2 million–by then). He said that the 3% “is a cap but is not a cap”, stressing the need for the population to increase gradually. “When it reaches 3%, then we can talk about it again. The foreign population will increase, just not to the levels of 5% or 7% like we see in Europe in one step. It’s too early for Japan.”
He was especially critical of the “lying” he sees behind Japan’s immigration policy. “The front door is closed, yet the back door is open–for Nikkei workers and foreign trainees.” He called the early-1990’s policy to import Nikkei workers, ostensibly because they are “Japanese” by blood but in reality because they were simply cheap labor, “the biggest mistake”.
He favors a work environment where women and senior citizens can work to a more elderly age, but since even that will not make up the shortfall, there must be a national policy regarding immigration. The local governments should not have to suffer financially for hosting an unassimilated community of minorities which have grown big enough to become a self-sufficient language subculture. Rather, the national government should take it upon itself to take steps to assimilate these people in ways he outlined in my Japan Times article linked above.
However, if the national government is to try harder to assimilate immigrants, then the potential immigrant has to do the same. He stressed that there must be quantifiable language ability before arrival and improvement afterwards. “Give them three to five years to learn the language”, with tutelage and evaluation in ways not elaborated upon. As the situation for foreign residents stands right now, he called it “very sad”, as Nikkeis came over and found things different than they expected.
When asked whether or not he would favor the establishment of a racial discrimination law (no, it wasn’t me asking–I’m not a working journalist and thus not allowed to raise any questions), Kouno Tarou said that he was not: “Even if there is a law, the attitudes of society will not change.” He cited an example which is not even covered by international treaty (as it is an interaction between individuals): “If a foreigner asks for a date and is refused, is that racial discrimination?” He concluded with the importance of culture and nature before codifying change.
There were other points raised and questions asked, but for our readership these are the bullet points. I went up to him after the luncheon ended, gave him a copy of my book JAPANESE ONLY in Japanese (http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html), and said this might help him understand why we need a racial discrimination law.
2) FOREIGN MINISTRY FORUM ON UN CERD AND DIENE REPORT JULY 28
Last Friday, I attended an 2-hour “iken koukan kai” (the second in what will hopefully be a series) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Around eighty people and dozens of human-rights groups (we don’t know precisely who-the MOFA wouldn’t release the guest list) attended, to discuss how the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD, http://www.debito.org/cerd.html) should be implemented.
More specifically, our meeting would discuss Japan’s follow-up to the UN Reports of 2001 (see http://www.debito.org/japanvsun.html), now many years overdue, and to the Diene Reports of 2005 and 2006 where racism in Japan was reported as “deep and profound” and “practiced undisturbed” (see http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html). Several ministries, namely the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the Transportation Ministry [due to public works interfering with Ainu lands], and the Education Ministry, were in attendance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted.
We had a pre-meeting at 1PM with our network of 30 NGOs and 5 concerned individuals (including volunteers, lawyers, businesspeople, students, and group representatives). Convocating and organizing was the group International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR, see http://www.imadr.org ), fronted by the very capable and young Mr Morihara (a person I see as a probable historical figure), who was largely behind UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene’s visits to Japan these past two years. Although the contents of this meeting are not something I can release to the public at this time, be it known that there was some trepidation expressed at the possibility of opponents attending to deliberately throw sand in the negotiations…
At 3PM the meeting started. The bureaucrats attending were almost all juniors in their twenties and thirties, except the chair of the meeting who was of kachou class (as usual, so nobody could speak on behalf of their ministries). After some preliminary remarks on the good works each ministry is doing in the name of human rights, we went person by person, row by row, with attendees making their stump speeches of being done wrong and how the government is in fact not helping out. We were told to limit our comments to one minute, though nobody did (it was impossible anyway), then the bureaucrats would respond after each row was finished. Six rows and three and a half hours later, we were done. Highlights:
I made a speech on how each ministry has ignored or overlooked human rights: Justice Ministry not even mentioning the possibility of an anti-racial discrimination law, Police targeting foreigners through campaigns and even DNA racial profiling (http://www.debito.org/NPAracialprofiling.html), Education Ministry talking about educating people about foreigners and foreign cultures instead of telling people how foreigners are residents too, and how the judiciary is not protecting us (Steve McGowan, losing plaintiff in the Osaka Eyeglass Exclusion Case, http://www.debito.org/mcgowanhanketsu.html, was in attendance, and sat next to me as I made the speech).
Others talked about problems with housing, health insurance, juuminhyou residency certificates, and the fact that the Diene Reports are were generally going ignored or justified out of existence. (Foreign Minister Aso Tarou spoke of the Diene report, in Gaikou Bouei Iinkai Meeting of May 18, 2006, to say essentially “that Diene’s visit was done as an individual, therefore the report is not binding as a UN report” (kankoku wa kojin no shikaku ni yoru no de, kokuren no kouteki kenkkai de wa naku houteki kousoku ryoku wa nai), and how Japan’s government would simply argue against it (nihon seifu to shite hanron bunsho o teishutsu suru). In the same month, leaders within the Foreign Ministry dismissed historical claims made by the Ainu, Zainichi Koreans, etc. as no longer modern (gendai teki keitai) enough to matter anymore to the discussion.
The right wing did indeed attend, with three old fogies (who mumbled their last names and refused to disclose their affiliations) waffling on about how it was all very well to talk about minority rights, but what of the majority of Japanese being “exploited” (sakushu) and Japan’s mythology (jinwa) no longer being taught in schools? After all, they said, what good is learning about foreigners if Japanese don’t learn about themselves properly? That was quickly shot down by one of our party who said, “Mythology and the CERD are unrelated, so can we move on?” We did.
At the end we did our standard practice of going up to shake hands with the bureaucrats, thank them for coming, and exit for a postmortem at a follow-up meeting. That meeting’s particulars are not something I can make public again, except to say that we established a specific network to deal with this situation. Not entitled “Coexistence with Foreigners” or some other such othering guff. It was a group (official title TBD) to fight against *racial discrimination*–because race, not nationality, is the issue here, and enough people now recognize it as such. This, above all, is the big victory of this trip.
Enough for now. More good news to follow in a few days. Thanks for reading.
August 1, 2006