DEBITO.ORG
Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page

New ebooks by ARUDOU Debito

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • NYT on Fingerprinting: “Disaster for J business”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 21st, 2007

    Hi Blog. Much the same ground covered in this article as others. But good to see a write-up this thorough making a splash throughout the US East Coast–in the Old Grey Lady, no less (a paper the GOJ takes most seriously of all overseas publications). Debito in Sapporo

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

    New Japanese Immigration Controls Worry Foreigners
    New York Times November 18, 2007
    By MARTIN FACKLER
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/world/asia/18japan-1.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    TOKYO, Nov. 17 — Japan has tried hard in recent years to shake its image as an overly insular society and offer a warmer welcome to foreign investors and tourists. But the country is about to impose strict immigration controls that many fear could deter visitors and discourage businesses from locating here.

    On Tuesday, Japan will put in place one of the toughest systems in the developed world for monitoring foreign visitors. Modeled on the United States’ controversial U.S.-Visit program, it will require foreign citizens to be fingerprinted, photographed and questioned every time they enter Japan.

    The screening will extend even to Japan’s 2.1 million foreign residents, many of whom fear they will soon face clogged immigration lines whenever they enter the country. People exempted from the checks include children under 16, diplomats and “special permanent residents,” a euphemism for Koreans and other Asians brought to Japan as slave laborers during World War II and their descendants.

    The authorities say such thorough screening is needed to protect Japan from attacks by foreign terrorists, which many fear here because of Japan’s support for the United States in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But the measures, part of an immigration law enacted last year, have been criticized by civil rights groups and foreign residents’ associations as too sweeping and unnecessarily burdensome to foreigners. They note that the only significant terrorist attack in Japan in recent decades was carried out by a domestic religious sect, which released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12 people.

    Some of the most vocal critics have been among foreign business leaders, who say the screening could hurt Japan’s standing as an Asian business center, especially if it is inefficiently carried out, leading to long waits at airports. Business groups here warn that such delays could make Japan less attractive than rival commercial hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore, where entry procedures are much easier.

    The business groups also contend that the screening runs counter to recent efforts by the government to attract more foreign investment and tourism.

    “If businessmen based here have to line up for two hours every time they come back from traveling, it will be a disaster,” said Jakob Edberg, policy director in the Tokyo office of the European Business Council. “This will affect real business decisions, like whether to base here.”

    Business groups also fault the government for bungling the few attempts it has made at explanation. Two weeks ago, the justice minister created a commotion when he defended the new measures by stating that “a friend of a friend” who belonged to Al Qaeda had entered the country repeatedly using forged passports. The government scrambled to say that the minister, Kunio Hatoyama, had never had direct contact with the alleged Qaeda member.

    However, some civil rights groups worry that the government is using terrorism to mask a deeper, xenophobic motive behind the new measures. They say that within Japan, the government has justified the screening as an anticrime measure, playing to widely held fears that an influx of foreigners is threatening Japan’s safe streets.

    These groups also note that fingerprinting of foreigners is not new here. Until fairly recently, all foreign residents were routinely fingerprinted. That practice was phased out after years of protest by foreign residents and civil rights groups.

    “Terrorism looks like an excuse to revive to the old system for monitoring foreigners,” said Sonoko Kawakami at Amnesty International in Japan. “We worry that the real point of these measures is just to keep foreigners out of Japan.”

    One request made by the European Business Council, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and other business groups is to add special lines at airports for foreign residents, and especially frequent business travelers.

    Until now, foreign residents have been allowed to use the same lines at airport immigration as Japanese citizens, speeding their entry. But the new law will bar them from doing so.

    Only the Tokyo area’s main international airport at Narita has agreed to set aside lines for foreign residents. Others, including the nation’s second-largest airport, Kansai International near Osaka, will force these residents to line up with other foreigners, who even before the new screening often waited an hour or more to pass through immigration.

    That irks Martin Issott, 59, a Briton and the regional director for a British chemical company who has lived in Japan for 20 years. Mr. Issott said he used the Kansai airport two or three times a month for business trips. He uses the immigration line for Japanese citizens and never waits more than five minutes. He said he feared that the change in rules would result in long waits at the end of every trip.

    “I have no problem complying with the letter of this law,” said Mr. Issott, who lives in the western city of Kobe. “But I am utterly disgusted that they haven’t found a way to make this quicker and more painless.”
    ENDS

    8 Responses to “NYT on Fingerprinting: “Disaster for J business””

    1. debito Says:

      FOUND THIS IN THE NYT ARCHIVES. MORE ON THE MORIKAWA CASE ON DEBITO.ORG HERE. NOTE THAT EXPOSURE IN THE NYT WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING THE OLD FINGERPRINT LAWS ABOLISHED. HOW PEOPLE JUST DON’T LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES! DEBITO

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

      New York Times. June 15, 1984
      AROUND THE WORLD; Japan Fines American Under Fingerprint Law
      http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A04E5DD1639F936A25755C0A962948260
      UPI
      A Yokohama court convicted an American college lecturer today of defying Japanese alien registration laws by refusing to be fingerprinted, in the first such test of the practice.

      Kathleen Morikawa, a 34-year-old native of Pittsburgh who has lived in Japan for 11 years, was fined about $43 by Judge Yoshikatsu Uehara, half the penalty demanded by the prosecutor in Yokohama.

      Mrs. Morikawa, whose husband, Jun, is a Japanese college professor, refused to be fingerprinted Sept. 9, 1982, because, she said recently, ”I got a bit tired of it, it’s discriminatory, and I wasn’t willing to accept it.”

      Under Japanese law, all non-Japanese citizens staying in the country more than 90 days must apply for an alien registration card, a process that requires the imprint of the left index fingerprint. The fingerprint must be given every time the card, valid for five years, is renewed.

    2. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      A $43 fine in 1984; today a holding cell and deportation.

      How society moves forward!

    3. HO Says:

      I am disappointed by NYT article. Why can’t they raise the privacy issue?
      “The screening will extend even to Japan’s 2.1 million foreign residents, many of whom fear they will soon face clogged immigration lines whenever they enter the country.”
      “But the measures, part of an immigration law enacted last year, have been criticized by civil rights groups and foreign residents’ associations as too sweeping and unnecessarily burdensome to foreigners.”
      “Some of the most vocal critics have been among foreign business leaders, who say the screening could hurt Japan’s standing as an Asian business center, especially if it is inefficiently carried out, leading to long waits at airports.”

      By the way, ““special permanent residents,” a euphemism for Koreans and other Asians brought to Japan as slave laborers during World War II and their descendants.” is wrong.

      They are called Special Permanent Residents because they were Japanese citizens until the end of WWII, when Allied Forces stripped of their Japanese citizenship and gave them Korean citizenship. They were immigrants from Korea to Japan, not forced laborers. During WWII, forced laborers were brought to Japan, leaving their family back home. They went back to their home right after the war is over. However, since immigrants had no home back in Korea, they could not but stay in Japan without Japanese citizenship. So, special permanent resident status was granted to them.

      –THANKS, BUT WHAT YOU SAY IS NOT QUITE ACCURATE. SOME SPECIAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS ARE DESCENDANTS OF THE FORMER CITIZENS OF EMPIRE. SOME DID COME OVER AS IMMIGRANTS, BUT SOME WERE INDEED BROUGHT HERE BY FORCE. AND NOT ALL ARE KOREANS. PLEASE SHOW A LITTLE MORE SOPHISTICATION IF YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE US A HISTORY LESSON.

    4. vegetablej Says:

      Today’s blog entry:

      Wednesday, November 21
      Day of Mourning!

      I’m declaring a Day of Mourning for the death of human rights in Japan.

      With the institution of the fingerprinting, photographing and questioning of non-Japanese visitors entering Japan, and even of residents and permanent residents every time they come back from a visit abroad, I declare that the last vestige of human rights here is dead.

      I could say a lot more about the unfriendly climate being generated here for non-Japanese, about the people stopped on the street for questioning when doing nothing more than riding their bicycles to work. About the total lack of human rights legislation, so that people with different skin colours are allowed to be arrested, injured in custody, thrown out of stores and declared non-credible witnesses in court because they are not Japanese. I could talk about how we must register for and carry at all times, on the penalty of being arrested, a “foreign registration card”.

      I could speak until I felt sick and exhausted with this treatment that should have passed out of the way we treat fellow humans with the great civil rights’ struggles of the last century.

      I will just say that I, as a person living here for almost 9 years altogether, feel harassed, intimidated, and tired of the racism. I feel more than a little disappointed that my students and more of the Japanese public have not made any effort to say to the government that these policies aren’t right. That we have already been processed and registered and given our photographs to officials before we could get work visas or those resident’s cards.

      Unfortunately, only a few Japanese have even said to me privately they were sorry the government was doing this. I can not find much support for human rights in ordinary people. I think many are too afraid to think for themselves, content to do what the government tells them. I think they actually believe that this will stop “terrorists”, which of course to them must be “foreigners”. Why do they think that? Well the TV and newspapers and government are saying it’s true.

      They have short memories. Even I can remember the sarin gas attack that was carried out by a Japanese, and the airplane that was hijacked by members of the Japanese Red Army. The only other acts of terror that I remember, are the North Korean kidnappings of Japanese.

      In case you think I’m exaggerating about any of this, I’ll refer you to debito.org where you can read more about what’s going on.

      These days I might be living in pre-war Germany, or the southern United States during the time before the freedom-riders. Japan has taken on some good role models, ones that remind me how misguided policies can lead to sad endings.

    5. Turner Says:

      If that fine were the case today, I’m betting the majority would choose to fork over the 4500 yen.

    6. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Turner, did they not take the fingerprints from her anyway? I’d be surprised if they let her off that easily.

    7. Turner Says:

      Probably did, and I made that comment before reading about foreigners being incarcerated for refusing to give their prints at the border.

    8. Adam Says:

      Vegetablejgreat post, very good. You are so right, but let this land die, we have at least another place to go and ONLY JAPANESE dont, so no worries my friend. The biggest problem I see is, as someone wrote in one of forums Japan is not ready for such things, its racist system, racist police and so on. God help us if we visited place where later crime occurred done by Japanese of course. The first thing Police is going to do is search through data of foreign fingerprints. Unfortunately, if there were one, without further investigation, we are in jail for nothing, for just being in wrong place and wrong time. Remember conviction rate 99%

    Leave a Reply