DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 17, 2006

mytest

Hello All. Arudou Debito here. Contents of this week’s newsletter:

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1) “DANGER! HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION LAW” MANGA TRANSLATED
2) “ILLEGAL FOREIGN LABOR MONTH” SIGNS UP AGAIN IN SHINAGAWA STN
3) TOKYO PRESS CONF JUNE 22: HAMAMATSU MAYOR KITAWAKI
4) JT ON REINSTITUTION OF FINGERPRINTING, AND RESPONSE
5) KOFI ANNAN ON JAPAN’S NEW IMMIGRATION LAW
6) KOFI ANNAN ON MIGRANTS
7) JOHN EDWARD PHILIPS ON ACADEMIA AND MONOCULTURALISM IN JAPAN

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June 17, 2006 Freely Forwardable

1) “DANGER! HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION LAW” MANGA TRANSLATED

Last report, I told you about the “emergency publication” of a book designed to scupper any prospects of a law safeguarding human rights in Japan (particularly the Jinken Yougo Houan, currently under consideration by the Diet). I mentioned a manga within which illustrated the “abuses” of such a law, like denying obdurate landlords the “right” to refuse narrow-eyed Chinese tenants, denying employers the “right” to refuse to hire or fire lazy darkie women foreigners, etc.

Well, no need to leave people out of the party. Friend and fellow naturalized Japanese MIKI Kaoru (ne Coal Restall) has kindly translated the manga into English with verve and flair. See them with comments on his blog at
http://libationkowloon.blogspot.com/2006/06/protecting-human-rights-is-dangerous.html

Or see them side by side in English and Japanese at
http://www.debito.org/abunaijinkenyougohouan.html

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2) “ILLEGAL FOREIGN LABOR MONTH” SIGNS UP AGAIN IN SHINAGAWA STATION

Alert commuter Steven H. spotted this: The return of the “BEWARE OF FOREIGNERS” type of signs paid for with our tax monies.

In Shinagawa Station, one of Japan’s biggest, there is a stadium-size banner reading:

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“THIS MONTH IS THE POLICY CAMPAIGN AGAINST ILLEGAL FOREIGN LABORERS
JUNE 1 TO JUNE 30”

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on the obverse, and
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“INTERNATIONALIZATION WITH RULES OBEYED”
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on the reverse.
Sponsored specifically in name by your friendly Ministry of Justice, Tokyo Immigration Bureau. See photos and commentary at
http://www.debito.org/shinagawasigns061106.html
Photos again courtesy Kaoru.

Sheesh. This isn’t even the first time this banner has appeared. Last time (June 2004) the Japan Times even put it on their Community Page, with an indictment of Japan’s emerging draconian Immigration policies.
http://www.debito.org/japantimes062904.html
Guess by recycling they’re getting our money’s worth.

These sorts of activities, especially when sponsored by the government, have been roundly condemned by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur Mr. Doudou Diene as encouraging racism and xenophobia. See what I mean at http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html

Segueing nicely from official meanspiritedness into local government benevolence:

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3) TOKYO PRESS CONF JUNE 22: HAMAMATSU MAYOR KITAWAKI

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Because Mayor Kitawaki presided over one of the more progressive policy drives towards foreigners in Japan’s history.

After Japan’s first court victory citing international treaty in a racial discrimination case (Ana Bortz vs. Seibido Trading, 1999), which just happened to take place in his city, Mayor Kitawaki in October 2001 convened a meeting of 13 cities from six prefectures with high foreign worker populations. Issuing a historical document entitled the “Hamamatsu Sengen” (Hamamatsu Declaration), these government heads demanded the national government create policy guaranteeing foreigners the modicum of social welfare entitled to every worker and resident of Japan. (At the time even the regional government, Shizuoka Prefecture, refused to grant National Health Insurance (Kokumin Kenkou Hoken) to foreigners–because, they argued, they weren’t nationals!) Kitawaki and company submitted this proposal to Tokyo Mandarinland Kasumigaseki in November 2001, where it was duly ignored.

It should have ended there, but to his credit, Kitawaki cares–enough so that, like Diene, he’s doing a follow-up. Details as follows, courtesy of a reporter friend:

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“THE CASE OF HAMAMATSU”
A Speech by Mayor Kitawaki
JUNE 22, 3PM, 6TH FLOOR, FOREIGN PRESS CENTER,
NIPPON PRESS CENTER BUILDING, HIBIYA, TOKYO

Non-journalists or non-diplomats, phone and ask if you can get in.
Press Center at 03-3501-3401
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The full text of the “Hamamatsu Sengen”, with a brief in English, is available at:
http://www.debito.org/hamamatsusengen.html

More on the Ana Bortz Case (from the NY Times) and discrimination in the Shizuoka area at
http://www.debito.org/bortznytimes111599.html
http://www.debito.org/bortzdiscrimreport.html

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4) JT ON REINSTITUTION OF FINGERPRINTING, AND RESPONSE

After decades spent by domestic activists getting Japan to repeal fingerprinting for all foreign residents, the Japanese government last month reinstated them all over again–for all non-Zainichi foreigners entering and returning to Japan. On June 6, The Japan Times ran a debate on the pros and cons of fingerprinting as an anti-terrorist measure, with two friends from internet activist group The Community, Scott Hards and Matt Dioguardi, arguing pro and con respectively. Worth a look. See the articles (after free registration) at :

SCOTT T. HARDS
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/fl20060606z1.html

MATT DIOGUARDI
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/fl20060606z2.html

It caused enough of a furor that the JT ran a follow-up article on it one week later.
Community Page readers on Japan’s new immigration law
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20060613zg.html

I think you can probably guess where I stand on this issue, but FYI:

This singling out of foreigners for special treatment, predicated on the need for, to quote the ministries, “control of infectious diseases and terrorism”, is flawed even before we get into the science. If you’re going to fingerprint people, do it universally, without the assumption that foreigners are a higher risk or are more likely to be a detriment to society. Of course, politically that’s not possible at the moment (the Japanese public wouldn’t stand for it), so do it to the disenfranchised first. My previous Japan Times columns on Japan’s anti-terrorist and immigration policies available at:

On “Gaijin Chips” (IC Cards) :
http://www.debito.org/japantimes112205.html
On “Gaijin Dragnets” (the NPA illegally deputizing hotels) :
http://www.debito.org/japantimes101805.html
http://www.debito.org/japantimes030805.html
On Policymaking Based upon Fear (the harbinger article for future anti-terrorist policies) :
http://www.debito.org/japantimes052405.html
On Overdoing Immigration Crackdowns:
http://www.debito.org/japantimes062904.html
On NPA “Gaijin Biota Fingerprinting” Research:
http://www.debito.org/japantimes011304.html
And more at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#JOURNALISTIC
The Community info site at
http://www.debito.org/TheCommunity
Newest article first. Trace the arc.

Thus to me, reinstating fingerprinting was years in the making and an inevitable outcome, sadly. It’s a matter of CITYS (See, I Told You So)…

Fortunately, important people would agree this is part of a bad trend:

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5) KOFI ANNAN ON JAPAN’S NEW IMMIGRATION LAW

I mentioned last report about UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s press conference in Tokyo I had the privilege of attending, and a reporter friend asking about Japan’s new fingerprint policy:
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Question: “Japan yesterday passed a law reinstating fingerprinting for foreigners (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060518a2.html). Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene is also here investigating the situation of racism and xenophobia within Japan. Do you have any comment concerning Japan’s election to the Human Rights Council and its domestic situation vis-a-vis xenophobia?”

Annan’s answer: “I was unaware that Japan had passed this law. I am aware that Diene is here but we have not met to discuss his trip or findings. I am distressed that many countries worldwide are increasingly legislating xenophobic tendencies in the name of fighting terrorism, and I would hope that people will understand that legislating away civil liberties for peoples within its borders is not the proper path to take.”
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http://www.debito.org/rapporteur.html#annan

Well, a friend dug up the text of the entire press conference.
Tokyo, Japan, 18 May 2006 – Secretary-General’s Press Conference at the National Press Club
http://www.un.org/apps/sg/offthecuff.asp?nid=876

The exact quote of the question and answer was:
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Q: Today, here in Tokyo, Mr. Doudou Diene of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights said that Japan should take more steps in order to fight the discrimination against foreigners, and also regretted the fact that yesterday the Diet passed a new law to fingerprint every foreigner coming to Japan. Do you have a comment on that? We would discuss the report of Mr. Diene [Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance] generally. Thank you.

SG: No, I haven’t met [Doudou] Diene. I understand he’s here in Tokyo, and I have not discussed his report with him. And I’m not familiar with the new law that you referred to. But let me say this. On the issue of discrimination and xenophobia, I must say I’m getting worried. It’s increasing around the world in many societies and in many communities where politicians often use the presence of foreigners in their midst for political advantages. And when you look at the way migration is becoming a major issue around the world, and the way foreigners are being profiled, it is a very worrying situation. In fact, at the next General Assembly, one of the topics we will be talking about at a high-level dialogue will be migration so that all the leaders of the world will have a chance to discuss migration. I will be submitting a report to them. And so we need to not focus narrowly on this issue. Ever since terrorism reared its head since 9/11, and governments’ determination to protect themselves and to fight terrorism, I have noticed erosion of human rights and civil liberties. And I have had the chance to speak out on this and indicate that there should be no trade-off between effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and civil rights of individuals. And if we allow our civil liberties and our basic belief in rule of law to be eroded, because we are fighting the terrorists, then we are giving the terrorists a victory they could never have won on their own.
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END QUOTE

I guess my memory wasn’t too rusty after all…

While we’re at it:

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6) KOFI ANNAN AUTHORS ARTICLE ON MIGRANTS

Listen up, Japan:

EXCERPT
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Historically, migration has improved the well-being not only of individual migrants but of humanity as a whole. And that is still true. In a report that I presented last week to the U.N. General Assembly, I summarize research showing that migration, at least in the best cases, benefits not only the migrants themselves but also the countries that receive them, and even the countries they have left… All in all, countries that welcome migrants and succeed in integrating them into their societies are among the most dynamic — economically, socially and culturally — in the world.
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END EXCERPT
Rest of the article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20060611a1.html

Finally, saving the best for last:

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7) JOHN EDWARD PHILIPS ON ACADEMIA AND MONOCULTURALISM IN JAPAN

It took me some time to get to this academic paper, but once I’d finished it, I realized I had read–and I say this with no hyperbole–probably one of the best dissertations on Japan ever.

Entitled “‘Perversion de l’Histoire’: George Balandier, his disciples, and African History in Japan”, Dr Philips, of Hirosaki University in Aomori Prefecture, starts off talking about how Japan’s academia clings to a long-discredited school of thought (anthropologist Balandier, whose proponents, especially in Japan, ultimately argue that historical analysis only applies to societies with a surviving written account, not an oral one).

That should have made my eyes glaze over (I was unaware of, nor did I care much about, the tensions between historians and anthropologists). But Dr Philips goes far beyond that, expanding the noose while tightening it.

He describes the sad state of Japanese academia (the process of creating carbon-copy research for generations, installing kingpins of dogma who promote time capsules of outmoded and even misinterpreted ideology, little subjected to the Socratic or even scientific method), the effects on Japan’s attitude towards Africans (essentially that of illiterate uncivilized Blacks vs literate civilized non-Blacks–which pops up in Japan’s diplomatic statements to and dealings with the UN and UNESCO), the role of history and education in Japan as a matter of societal engineering, and how it all contributes to Japan’s political economy as a steadfast defender of monoculturalism.

My favorite paragraphs are in the conclusion:

EXCERPT
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When the relevant powers in Japan have decided a question, discussion of the subject is closed. For example, the debate about whether ethnic conflict is natural and primordial, or whether it is contingent and politically provoked, is not a debate. The existence of a debate is not even acknowledged… Japanese sources universally [hold] that racism had created slavery… This is the way ethnic conflict is conceptualized in Japan, as natural and primordial.

The result of accepting only such perspectives, and of unquestioned obedience to [established academic kingpins]… is apparent if we look carefully at a recent publication in English from Japan…

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“What makes up history for people in an unlettered society is an accumulation of memories, an oral history that is indispensable to their perpetuation as a people. Each ethnic group has its own accumulation of memories, which is a representation of their culture and the source of their identity. Independent states in Africa are busy forcing ethnic groups to abandon their memories, considering them to be insignificant for the construction of a modern society, and to be interfering with modernization by preserving a tribal mentality.
************

Here we see compounded several different, unquestioned Japanese assumptions that have made it so hard for Japanese to understand the outside world. These are the assumptions that history is the official propaganda of nation states, that nations are, or should be, synonymous with ethnic groups, and that memories and traditions can never be held in common across ethnic boundaries, which assumptions are axiomatic in Japan. The ideas that oral traditions are somehow collective memories (instead of individual memories–there really being no such thing as a group mind) and that contemporary African nation states are trying to erase ethnicity (as opposed to tribalism) are flatly at odds with reality… [I]f Japan still has not learned, even 60 years after defeat and occupation by a multi-ethnic United States of America that Japanese leaders thought could never unite in face of an attack by Japan, that multi-ethnic and even multi-racial societies are possible, then Japan… should not be allowed to subvert the existing African states with the goal of replacing them with ethnically defined states.
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END EXCERPT

The lessons of this article, twenty years in the making, reverberate for hours afterwards. You can purchase it at
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/afas/2005/00000004/00000004/art00008
However, since the copyright belongs to an academic society which charges extortionately in this age of open information ($25 bucks for 25 pages? So much for free academic discourse…), those with light pockets or without research budgets can contact Dr Philips directly at philips@cc.hirosaki-u.ac.jp. His website http://human.cc.hirosaki-u.ac.jp/philips/

But again, if you can get a copy of the article, do so. It’s really worth it. It’s even worth putting up on the bathroom wall for rereading at your leisure.

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All for today. As always, thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
debito@debito.org
www.debito.org
June 17, 2006
ENDS

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