Chris Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)

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Hi Blog.  Last blog entry I talked about Amnesty International’s 2002 report on horrendous treatment and conditions of NJ detainees in Narita Airport. As a complement, here is Chris Johnson, photojournalist at venues such as CNNGo and The Japan Times, offering his unexpurgated experiences there last December.  Despite having a valid visa, he was denied entry, he believes, due to his critical press coverage of TEPCO and government responses to the Fukushima disasters.  He spent 30 hours in the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” (which he calls a gulag) before being forced to buy an overpriced one-way ticket and deported, and it changed his views dramatically on Japan’s legal and policing system.

Excerpt follows.  Full report at http://globalite.posterous.com/inside-the-gaijin-tank-dungeon-at-narita-airp-91122

This issue deserves more attention.  Extralegality may be the norm in Customs and Immigration Zones around the world, but extreme treatment is exactly what happens when policing is unfettered and unmonitored.  It is, to put it mildly, unbefitting a society such as Japan’s, with official pretensions towards respecting the rule of law. Especially when you read about Chris’s experience with the private security goons, who seem to have gone beyond any plausible mitigation (“just following orders”) by Milgram.  Were these the people who killed Abubakar Awadu Suraj in 2010 while deporting him, and to this day have not been charged with any crime?  Arudou Debito

NB:  What follows is an updated version of Chris’s report as of January 18, 2011, amending allegations about a private security company called G4S.  Read on for disclaimers:

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Inside the Gaijin Tank dungeon at Narita Airport in Japan

By Christopher Johnson, freelance photojournalist at CNNGo, The Japan Times, etc.

Globalite Magazine

News, photos and fiction from around the world

Version updated January 18, 2012

Full article at http://globalite.posterous.com/inside-the-gaijin-tank-dungeon-at-narita-airp-91122

Detained for 30 hours and expelled from Japan, a veteran Tokyo-based journalist gets a harrowing glimpse into the trap door at Narita Airport leading into a secretive gulag of rights abuses against thousands of foreign visitors and expats, often by guards hired by airlines 

(((This is a revised, tightened version of an earlier post. It includes a correction based on a comment from a spokesman for g4s, one of the world’s largest companies, which supplies security guards to more than 60 airports. A spokesman says g4s staff are NOT working at Narita. It is not clear who employs the guards accused of mistreating foreigners at Narita.

It includes information about other Westerners wrongfully jailed and expelled from Japan. Also includes comments via Japan Times from former immigration chief, one of the most important critics of detention policy. As previously noted, it is a raw work in progress, unedited, unpolished. Please send comments, anecdotes and info for inclusion in this story.)))

—-When you line up to get your passport stamped at Narita international airport outside Tokyo, look to your right toward a set of “special examination rooms.” That is where the trap door into Japan’s secretive gulag begins.

Most travellers, who regard Japan as a safe country of civilized people, have no idea that thousands of foreign arrivals — just like them — have fallen down that trap door into windowless dungeons in the bowels of the airport. From there, foreigners of all nationalities — seeking a pleasant vacation or a better life in Japan — have vanished into a horrific network of “detention centres” imprisoning thousands of innocent foreigners in appalling conditions.

Most red-eyed foreign arrivals also don’t realize that the immigration officers taking their fingerprints and scanning their passports are working with xenophobic colleagues who have deported on average about 20,000 foreigners every year since 2005, and who have been on trial for themurder of a longtime foreign resident of Japan last year at Narita.

They also don’t realize that airlines, according to the Immigration Bureau, are technically responsible for providing nightmarish dungeons and hiring “security guards” accused of human rights abuses — everything from extortion to theft, torture and denial of rights to call embassies, lawyers or family.

Instead of taking a public stand against the flagrant abuse of their valued customers over the last 15 years, airlines at Narita — knowingly or not — have been reaping windfalls from thousands of expelled passengers forced to purchase one-way tickets at exorbitant prices. Airline officials have not yet replied to requests over the past week for comments on the matter. 

Whether you are a fresh-minded explorer or a jaded expat fluent in the language and culture, the numbers are shocking, and an embarrassing revelation into the darkest side of Japan, a country that prides itself on safety and rule of law.

Amnesty International’s annual report for 2011 says Japan accepted 30 refugees out of about 1000 applicants this past year. It’s not clear what happened to the other 970 or so applicants. Many of them could still be incarcerated.

According to the Immigration Bureau, Japan deports on average 20,000 foreigners every year, including  33,000 in 2005, and another 18,578 in 2010. In other words, Japan kicked out about one-fifth the number of people — 91,778 — who were, as of January 2010, “overstaying their visas”. In reality, “overstaying” means they were dedicating their lives to working for Japanese bosses or employing Japanese in their own businesses, in a country that desperately needs entrepreneurs and job creators. These people, who would normally become immigrants or refugees in other countries, often become prisoners and suicide cases in Japan. All of these people were customers of airlines at Narita. 

That 2010 number — 18,578 individuals with names and families, often in Japan — is enough to fill about 100 jets flying out of Japan during the mass foreign exodus from aftershocks and radiation fears in March.

That number — 18,578 — is similar to the official death toll from the March 11 tsunami, which triggered a wave of international sympathy for the plight of Japan.

Yet other than Amnesty, the UNHCR and some courageous NGOs, few foreign organizations or celebrities have done anything about a system of abuses that ultimately damages Japan’s relations with its key trading partners, causes more than 100,000 people to bear grudges against Japan, andstains the image and balance sheets of airlines who have lost thousands of expelled foreigners as customers. 

Many immigration officers are aware of these issues, and some are trying to reform from within. One of the bureau’s main critics is their former chief, Hidenori Sakanaka. “One year of confinement is mentally tough,” Hidenori Sakanaka, who headed the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau from April 2002 to March 2005, told the Japan Times in July, 2010. The JT noted reports of suicides by a Brazilian and South Korean earlier that year, and hunger strikes at detention centers. “The Immigration Bureau must stop suicides and hunger strikes.”

He said detention centers and the Immigration Bureau must go public about the suicides and treatment of detainees, and also explain how a Ghanaian man, who had been working in Japan for 22 years, died in the custody of immigration officers at Narita airport in March 2010. “The incidents give the Immigration Bureau a chance to improve itself.”

Sakanaka has also authored a book asking readers whether they want “a Bigger Japan” teeming with immigrants, or a “Smaller Japan” with few foreign faces.

Japan’s Immigration Bureau declares on its website (http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/) that it’s motto is “internationalization in compliance with the rules.” It says the bureau makes “contributions to sound development of Japanese society” by “making efforts for smoother cross-border human mobility” and “deporting undesirable aliens”.

The problem, activists say, is their view of who is “undesirable.” In fact, few of the 18,578 deportees in 2010 were hardcore criminals threatening Japanese society. The Japanese media stereotype of them as being poor, dirty, uneducated miscreants is completely wrong. Many deportees have Japanese wives, children, friends and pets. Many are fluent in Japanese, with college degrees and successful careers.

“Jim” is a white male college professor from the United States, who began teaching in Japan about 30 years ago. I first met him in the airport’s “special examination room”. He was wearing a suit and tie like other middle-aged businessmen. He had just walked off a United Airlines flight from America. He wanted to spend Christmas with his 20-year old son, now living with his ex-wife in the Tokyo area. “I got a really cheap ticket, and decided to go for it to see my son,” he says. “The airline let me on, so there shouldn’t have been a problem.”

Jim would spend Christmas in the dank, windowless dungeon, where for 72 hours he was a victim of extortion, theft, strip-searching, abuse, denial of rights and expulsion from Japan at a rip-off price. (I would later discover that he had given speeches supporting anti-nuke protesters in Japan.)

((But even Jim was fortunate compared with Danny Bloom, an American journalist who, after working for five years at the Daily Yomiuri, says he was arrested on charges of overstaying his visa, held in solitary confinement for 41 days in 1995, and deported from Japan. He says he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects an estimated 30 million Americans, due to a plane crash in Alaska, and couldn’t fly to Seoul to obtain a work permit. Now exiled in Taiwan, he says he can never return to “the police state” of Japan, even though he still loves Japanese people.)) 

((Other educated white males from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, who have contacted me since this story first appeared, say privately that they were also victims of wrongful deportation and similar abuses.))

 

x–x—x—x—x—x—x–x–x—x–x–x—x–x–x

 

WHO IS WATCHING THE GUARDS?

 

Jim’s ordeal, and my own experience during a 30-hour detention at Narita and expulsion on Christmas Eve from Japan, confirms Amnesty’s reports dating back to the year 2000, when they first discovered a secret gulag housing thousands of foreigners.

As other victims have told Amnesty, it’s a scam, and a money-maker for the airlines and security guards. At Narita, they have arbitrary powers, and they use them. They can decide “Entry Denied”, and then find a rule or excuse to justify it. They don’t have to explain their reasons, and the appeal process is a sham.

Since there aren’t many reports of these abuses at Haneda and other airports in Japan, victims suspect there is a criminal syndicate operating at Narita since at least 1996. One guy marks a paper “Entry Denied.” He hands you off to a guy who shakes you down for 30,000 yen, who then hands you off to another guy who takes away your rights in the dungeon, who then hands you off to another guy who forces you to buy a rip-off plane ticket. If Amnesty is correct in estimating 7 cases per day on average, this syndicate could earn 200,000 yen per day in extortion fees, and 300,000 to perhaps a million yen per day on marked up airline tickets. Where does the money go? Who can stop them from doing this?

My own experience is consistent with several previous cases cited by Amnesty, and at least five other victims who have emailed me their stories. In my case, Asiana Airlines staff at the check-in counter in Seoul saw that I had a proper visa for Japan, and let me board a flight to Tokyo. The immigration officer at Narita, however, didn’t even look through my Canadian passport, where he would have found proper stamps, working visas, and multiple re-entry permits dating back years. While taking my fingerprints, he saw my name pop up on a list on his computer. (I have strong reason to believe that I have been blacklisted due to my critical coverage of TEPCO, Japan Tobacco, Olympus, JAL, the yakuza, fascists, and state neglect of tsunami survivors and nuclear refugees.) He marked a paper and gave my passport to another officer.

After leading me to the “special examinations room”, hostile immigration officials at Narita falsified my statements, disregarded my proof, confiscated my passport and belongings, and arbitrarily denied me permission to enter Japan, where I have built up a career as a journalist covering Asia since 1987.  They gave no sensible explanation for their decision. An officer simply wrote “no proof, entry denied” on a document, and asked me to sign it. I refused.

I was shocked that they could do that. But I shouldn’t have been. Thousands of foreigners arriving at Narita have been victimized by brutal thugs and racists — some of whom are not ethnically Japanese. According to Amnesty, airlines at Narita hire “security guards” to “escort” their passengers to the “detention facilities” — which are de facto maximum security jails. These guards also deny basic human rights, such as phone calls to lawyers, embassies or UNHCR. These guards harass, beat, or torture airline customers into paying “service fees”. In Jim’s case, they abused him until he finally coughed up 30,000 yen, about 400 US. They demanded the same from me, and also took money from my wallet. Gear was also stolen from my baggage.

Then, after passengers have been deported or denied landing rights, they are forced to acquire an overpriced one-way ticket. Since nobody can stop them from stealing or confiscating your possessions, the guards can use your credit cards or cash to buy tickets against your will. Since nobody is overseeing their extra-legal actions, it’s possible that the guards are taking kickbacks from airline staff selling the outrageously priced tickets.

In my case, employees at the airport said that I would have to pay as much as 400,000 yen ($5000) for a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Vancouver and Calgary. With a one-way ticket “purchased” against my will, they forced me onto a flight to Canada without much winter clothing for minus 40 temperatures in Alberta. They even called my longtime Japanese partner in Tokyo and threatened her, saying that if she didn’t pay for the ticket, her partner would face lengthy jail time.

 

After nearly 25 years of life in Asia, I arrived in Canada with 3-days clothing, far away from my house in Tokyo.

 

(((Who are these guards? Who is employing them? In my delirium during detention, I originally thought I saw “gas” written on their uniforms and van. After a rough draft of this story first appeared, several people wrote to say the guards are working for g4s, a UK-based company founded more than 100 years ago. A spokesman for g4s says this is not true. 

 

Adam Mynott, director of media relations at g4s, has kindly requested a correction of this. After being contacted by a reporter with The Economist, Mr. Mynott told me in an email that g4s “does not have any security business whatsoever at Narita Airport, nor are there any g4s affiliated Japanese companies working as security guards at the airport.”

 

I also have found no proof that g4s is operating at Narita. 

 

This raises key questions: who are the guards escorting detainees at Narita? What company are they working for? Why is “gas” written on the side of their van? Since “gAs” and “g4s” look quite similar, is that company “pirating” the logo of g4s, a respected international company? Or is it simply a coincidence?

 

A security company working behind the scenes in Japan might have good reason for wanting to somehow draw upon the global success of g4s. 

 

According to links sent by readers after this story first appeared, g4s is indeed one of the world’s largest companies, with more than 600,000 employees in 125 countries. They reportedly supply security guards to more than 60 airports including Heathrow, Oslo and Vancouver, US military bases in South Korea, Immigration Removal Centers in the UK and detention centres in Australia, a state prison in Birmingham, England, the 2012 London Olympics, US nuclear power plants, oil tankers facing pirate attacks off Somalia, and Japanese embassies around the world. (Note the photo of an armed woman guarding a nuclear reactor: http://careers.g4s.com/2010/11/g4s-nuclear-security-services-corporation-nssc/

 

It’s not clear where g4s operates in Japan. In South Korea, the US military on December 15 (only a week before I returned from Seoul), accused g4s of violating a contract to guard their bases there, according to Stars and Stripes. Former guards have refused to work for the new company for longer hours and lower wages.  These guards have protested outside U.S. Army bases, including Yongsan Garrison, Camp Red Cloud, Camp Casey, Camp Humphreys, Camp Henry and Camp Carroll. (http://www.stripes.com/news/gis-still-manning-gates-in-s-korea-as-contractor-struggles-to-fill-slots-1.163646)

 

A company press release said they won a $400 million contract to screen passengers and baggage at 20 airports in Canada, beginning November 1, 2011. When I passed through airports in Vancouver and Calgary on December 24, I found the security staff to be exceptionally friendly and professional. 

 

The company’s official website (www.g4s.com.) says they help ensure “the safety and welfare” of millions of people worldwide. “We secure airports and embassies, protect cash and valuables for banks and retailers across the globe, safeguard some of the most exciting events in the global sporting and entertainment calendar, and are a trusted partner to governments worldwide,keeping personnel and some of the world’s most important buildings safe and secure. What we do touches people’s lives in nearly every area you can imagine.”

 

((http://www.g4s.com) (info@jp-g4s.com, +81-42-519-9303) US media contact: Fiona Walters, Chief Communications Officer,+1 561 691 6459)

 

(As of January 17, it remains unclear who hired the guards accused of extortion and abuses at Narita since at least 1996. It’s also unclear if the guards, speaking foreign languages during my detention, were Gurkhas from Nepal or nationals of other countries.) 

 

The immigration bureau’s own documents confirm that airlines are responsible for hiring the security guards at Narita. “Concerning your expenses for being in Japan (meal, lodging, guard etc.) till your departure, the Immigration Bureau cannot take any responsibility,” said an officially stamped notice of the Ministry of Justice Tokyo Immigration Bureau, given to me a few hours before my expulsion. “This is a matter between you and your carrier (airline company).”

Many airlines gained respect for flying passengers for free or reduced prices out of danger zones after the 2004 tsunami and 2011 nuclear disaster. ANA and JAL, which use Narita as a hub for their global operations, are among the most respected airlines in the world, and they are highly-regarded for their service and safety. Yet credit card and airline employees have stated that they would not normally reimburse payments in such cases, since their passengers had technically“authorized” purchase by signing forms. As one victim of this scam has noted, it’s the moral equivalent of an armed bank robber getting off because the victimized bank teller, fearing for her life, “signed” the withdrawal slip.

ENDS

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UPDATE JANUARY 20, 2012 FROM DEBITO

In related news regarding violence/homicide by private security companies towards their detainees, Private Eye (UK) Issue 1291 24 June – July 7, 2011 reported the following:

=======================
PRIVATE SECURITY
G4S locks up the captive market

Scan of the article at
http://www.claresambrook.com/campaign-page/Images-campaign-page/Private-Eye-(21-June-Issue-1291).jpg

CONGRATULATIONS to G4S, the gigantic “Securing Your World” security company that has made sales of GBP 4.2 billion to the Ministry of Justice [UK] alone. Justice secretary Ken Clarke, in reply to a parliamentary question, listed ten contracts with G4S, including running prisons, escorting prisoners and tagging offenders.

This is in addition to its GBP 42 million in Foreign Office security deals (GBP million in Afghanistan alone) — although these are believed to represent the mere tip of an iceberg, because the FO said details of its numerous contracts around world “are not kept centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.

Then there is the company’s Welfare to Work bonanza, which, as chief executive David Taylor-Smith told financial analysts last month, “when clocked in next year will be GBP 130 million”, not to mention to the “very strong pipeline”that he boasted was heading G4S’s way from the Department of Health.

Evidently profiting from the public sector carve-up, G4S is the ideal lucrative refuge for former well-connected government ministers such as John Reid, former home secretary and minister of health, defence and transport. Reid, now a peer, went on the G4S payroll in 2008 when he was a backbench MP and is now a G4S non-executive director.

Amid all this good news, only a party pooper would point out that G4S may face corporate manslaughter charges over the death last year of deportee Jimmy Mubenga, after use of “restraint” at Heathrow; or that the company is awaiting sentence in Australia in the case of an Aboriginal elder who was cooked to death (dying of heatstroke and suffer third-degree burns) as he was transported across the outback in the back of a badly maintained G4S van with no air conditioning, little water, and no way of alerting drivers in the front to his dreadful plight. The company has pleaded guilty to charges of failing to ensure the man’s health and wellbeing.

But then, with a maximum penalty of a mere AU$ 400,000 (GBP 260,000), it won’t eat into the profits too much.

——-

Last week it emerged that G4S received 773 complaints last year from removal centre detainees — an increase of 240 on the previous year.
=======================

ENDS

COMMENT: Sorry to bring in an unrelated American political “talking point”, but if “corporations are people”, it seems that unlike people, corporations really CAN get away with murder. And even if G4S was uninvolved in the Narita Airport events discussed on Debito.org, the rot and unaccountability of the thuggish private security firms managing the post 9-11 bonanza seems to be systemwide. This must be known about and done away with.

91 comments on “Chris Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)

Comment navigation

  • In related news regarding violence/homicide by private security companies towards their detainees, Private Eye (UK) Issue 1291 24 June – July 7 2011 reported the following:

    =======================
    PRIVATE SECURITY
    G4S locks up the captive market

    Scan of the article at
    http://www.claresambrook.com/campaign-page/Images-campaign-page/Private-Eye-(21-June-Issue-1291).jpg

    CONGRATULATIONS to G4S, the gigantic “Securing Your World” security company that has made sales of GBP 4.2 billion to the Ministry of Justice [UK] alone. Justice secretary Ken Clarke, in reply to a parliamentary question, listed ten contracts with G4S, including running prisons, escorting prisoners and tagging offenders.

    This is in addition to its GBP 42 million in Foreign Office security deals (GBP million in Afghanistan alone) — although these are believed to represent the mere tip of an iceberg, because the FO said details of its numerous contracts around world “are not kept centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost”.

    Then there is the company’s Welfare to Work bonanza, which, as chief executive David Taylor-Smith told financial analysts last month, “when clocked in next year will be GBP 130 million”, not to mention to the “very strong pipeline”that he boasted was heading G4S’s way from the Department of Health.

    Evidently profiting from the public sector carve-up, G4S is the ideal lucrative refuge for former well-connected government ministers such as John Reid, former home secretary and minister of health, defence and transport. Reid, now a peer, went on the G4S payroll in 2008 when he was a backbench MP and is now a G4S non-executive director.

    Amid all this good news, only a party pooper would point out that G4S may face corporate manslaughter charges over the death last year of deportee Jimmy Mubenga, after use of “restraint” at Heathrow; or that the company is awaiting sentence in Australia in the case of an Aboriginal elder who was cooked to death (dying of heatstroke and suffer third-degree burns) as he was transported across the outback in the back of a badly maintained G4S van with no air conditioning, little water, and no way of alerting drivers in the front to his dreadful plight. The company has pleaded guilty to charges of failing to ensure the man’s health and wellbeing.

    But then, with a maximum penalty of a mere AU$ 400,000 (GBP 260,000), it won’t eat into the profits too much.

    ——-

    Last week it emerged that G4S received 773 complaints last year from removal centre detainees — an increase of 240 on the previous year.
    =======================

    ENDS

    COMMENT: Sorry to bring in an unrelated American political “talking point”, but if “corporations are people”, it seems that unlike people, corporations really CAN get away with murder. And even if G4S was uninvolved in the Narita Airport events discussed on Debito.org, the rot and unaccountability of the thuggish private security firms managing the post 9-11 bonanza seems to be systemwide. This must be known about and done away with.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    CJ’s story is getting picked up. It appeared (in it’s revised but still rambling entirety) on The Economist website. Given CJ’s unwillingness to discuss his visa status (if you questioned him on this you were a ‘hater’, but now his lawyer has advised him not to discuss it), I am hoping that the story will gather enough momentum and profile that the truth will out, and we will know what really happened.

    I am deeply offended by CJ’s twitter response to Jake Adelstein (who certainly does know about crime syndicates in Japan), where he compares himself to a 17 year old rape victim;

    @jakeadelstein If a girl, 17, is raped walking home drunk from a bar, do you blame her for drinking under age, and ask if she wore a skirt?
    https://twitter.com/#!/cjinasia/status/159863601828610049

  • Ryan the fifth says:

    @CJ and Debito readers

    I’ve followed this story here on debito.org, fuckedgaijin.com, The Economist blog, and CJ’s own evolving work. Now that my shock is over and I am now thinking critically again I’m going to respond again.

    I’m sorry to say CJ my time spent in reflection has not worked in your favor. I’m not denying your spent time in detention and deportation. Your treatment if verified deserves legal recourse. However, your comments here about some of the above mentioned sources [http://www.fuckedgaijin.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27818] leave me questioning your character. In fact most of the debate I have read has been level-headed (unlike Meat67’s claims). I will admit some of it is mocking and frankly they mock you over your very ludicrous claims about their employment.

    I have also seen and realized that there are some holes in your story. This point while discussed to the point of death, is more logically done on other blogs and comments sections. A perfect example is here http://www.hikosaemon.com/2012/01/japan-how-bad-is-japanese-immigration.html

    In response to some of the other comments I have come up with the following. Your status of residence (visa status) does not directly add to your narration about your treatment in detention. It does add to your credibility. Similar to a trial people are examining your account for holes and your personal integrity to verify the likely hood of a false story.

    It should come as no surprise others are checking your credibility or even questioning it. Your story which you even admit that it isn’t a polished ready for papers account; came out on your personal blog. Blogs run the gamut from respectable editorials to at worst tabloid like status. Only one publication that must uphold its reputation has published your story, The Economist. Once again though it wasn’t even published in their main pages. Rather it was in another blog along with disclaimers that nothing about your story is verified yet.

    People want to know if they can trust you or if you cry wolf at random for the hell of it. Things like your status of residence and whether you over stayed help people to decide how credible you are. This applies even when it doesn’t relate directly to what you are making your point about.

    Another good point to reveal your former status is that they also want this information so they can decide how likely this is to happen to them. As such it garners people to your cause even if you did over stay or had paperwork issues. It makes you more sympathetic. “Gosh I don’t want to go through that for a simple mistake.” While asking for scanned copies of all your passport stamps is excessive and privacy invading saying “I have XYZ status which covers my work.” can go a long way with corroboration.

    Frankly the entire situation is feeling like a mix your twitter analogy and an alternative posted at fuckedgaijin [http://www.fuckedgaijin.com/forums/showpost.php?p=292970&postcount=120]. It seems you were denied entry to a bar [Japan] and then got assaulted by either the bouncer or the police, and are now angry that your being questioned for the facts. By all means go forward with your legal action just don’t be surprised if your omissions of facts hurt your credibility.

  • Credibility. Who do you believe. Hate-mongerers who hide behind pseudonyms, or someone whose had more than 2000 articles published in media worldwide?

    Am I sensitive to being mistreated or held against my will? You decide.

    In 1987, fresh out of journalism school, I covered homicides in the Detroit area. In 1991, I was mugged and beaten unconscious by a gang in a Nairobi park. Later that year, Serbian Chetniks who had just massacred about 70 people in a village near Vukovar, held me, Reuters correspondent Andrej Gustincic, and Swiss News Agency reporter Christian Wurtenburg against our will for about 24 hours, mainly because Andrej was on their death list. They showed us pools of blood in a school and other evidence to tell the world they meant business. Andrej saved our lives with his calm demeanor, but the Chetniks later murdered Christian, my roommate at that time. I was 26 years old.

    A decade later, Swedish war correspondent Urban Hamid and I were nearly kidnapped by hostage-takers between Zamboanga and Basilan in the Philippines. Urban’s street smarts saved us, as they did a year later in Baghdad, when we shared room 1033 of the Palestine Hotel during the 2003 invasion. Our colleague Daniel Pearl didn’t have the chance to get away. He was murdered by kidnappers not long after our Thanksgiving Day dinner in Islamabad.

    Having covered 9 wars, I always regarded Japan as a safe haven, a place where I could focus on work without fear of muggers, terrorists or state violence.

  • It seems to me that the main message of your story is that it’s not a good idea to try to come to live and work in Japan on a tourist visa. The way in which you present your story in a “could happen to anyone” manner (and the repeated evasion and misdirection as to your visa status – an expired 2008 visa simply has no relevance) is downright dishonest IMO and has alienated many people who would have been naturally sympathetic had you been more honest about what really happened.

  • clearly James Annan has never been in jail or a war zone and has no direct personal experience of how thousands of foreigners have been treated in Japan. No sympathy, no empathy, no respect, it all adds up to a delusional view of your surroundings. I’m risking my own rep to make sure people like James never get shafted like I was. It’s up to you, James to open up to the reality I’m exposing here. If you want to continue attacking me, tell me what your real name is, for all to see, and tell us your life story, and your biases. Show me the body of your life work that somehow proves your credibility. I could care less if I have “alienated many people”. I’m exposing a serious injustice that affects people like you James. This is the journalistic form of tough love.

  • James, clearly you care about this issue, otherwise you wouldn’t come to this blog. You have your goals, and I have mine. I’m determined to use my journalistic powers and privileges to do something about a brutal habit at the airport that has messed up hundreds of innocent people. I happen to have a platform, as a journalist, that other victims didn’t have. I can’t be distracted by other issues. I have my own strategy about how I release information. Keep in mind I’m a journalist who makes a living off his stories. More and more will be revealed in coming days. It’s not what you want to hear, but try and stay focussed on the bigger issues here, which is your lack of rights in Japan. You are a gaijin. You are not even 100 percent human, if you are in Japan. I am now in Canada, where I am 100 percent human. I want you to be 100 percent human anywhere you go in the world. I’ll sign my name to that.

  • I’m coming down pretty firmly on the side of the ‘haters’ (as CJ would describe me) on this issue.

    Here’s what I posted at Banyan’s (that’s the Banyan blog at The Economist) write up:

    > If only Chris Johnson had shown himself to be a sober and consistent reporter, his testimony would have been of enormous value to activists in Japan. Sadly, the way he’s gone about publishing, his penchant for the dramatic (“gulag”!?) and his rants on other websites, all suggest he’s more interested in telling a good yarn and blowing off some steam.
    >
    > What a shame.

    CJ’s most recent post at debito.org has done nothing to change my mind.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @CJ
    You say;
    ‘Credibility. Who do you believe. Hate-mongerers who hide behind pseudonyms, or someone whose had more than 2000 articles published in media worldwide?’

    I believe someone who answers straight up questions, like ‘what was your visa status?’ without resorting to hyperbole about pets and pot-plants, or even more accusations about NHK stooges.
    Please, I beg of you, post some links to these ‘2000 articles published’ that do not lead to E404 messages or your own blog.

  • James, another important thing to consider. I’m the Japan correspondent for the Washington Times. I’m very loyal to my editors there. When I was detained, I was on assignment for them, taking down details, remembering every little bit, trying to gather as much knowledge as I could about a murky world. My job is to reveal the whole story to them, not to people on chat sites, even a good one like this. Thus I couldn’t give my whole story away to the Economist. I want you to read it in the Washington Times in coming days. Does this make sense to you?

  • Jim di Griz: Jake and I are colleagues. I was a cop reporter in the Detroit area when I was 21. Jake was a cop reporter for the Gomi-uri. Jake covers Yaz, I cover wars. My assistant has become his assistant, now that I’m gone. The strange thing is: Jake was in Narita airport the same time I was being grilled in the special exam room. (Maybe some people will infer that JAKE got me expelled!) He was leaving for the US, I was coming back home to Japan. If my comment offended you, I apologize. That’s not my intention. I don’t live in Japan anymore, so I don’t have to polite and watch my tongue. What are they going to do to me, kick me out?

  • finally seeing some thoughtful and constructive comments on FG.com. One pseudo-nymster has boiled down the story to this:

    Stripped of the doubtful bits, Chris Johnson’s story is as follows:
    Immigration would not let me in to Japan! ((where I’ve been living on and off since 1989, as a gaijin, not a 100 percent human.))))
    Depending on how good you have been with your paperwork, that is their prerogative. ((What about the issue of them messing up people’s paperwork as a backhanded way to expel someone?))))

    It was demanded that I sign documents I didn’t want to! (((Exactly. That’s the point. You farang guailo barangi gringo gaijin aliens aren’t 100 percent human, so you have to sign here so that we can claim that we did our paperwork and followed the almighty rules that don’t follow any internationally accepted principles and treaties which Japan has ratified.))))

    This is one aspect which touches a few nerves. Many people seem to feel that this is symptomatic of the justice system in Japan. A bit of experience would probably show that this is pretty universal.

    Here’s how I would boil it down, into a news story for NHK’s fantastic English language news-site:

    An expelled Canadian freelance journalist says Japan made it impossible for him to live in Japan. The journalist says he’ll tell us more in coming days in the Washington Times and other strings, which pay him for it. The Economist says it’s another case of Japan’s mistreatment of foreigners.

  • trustbutverify says:

    Credibility. Who do you believe.

    That seems to have become the crux of this, doesn’t it, CJ? I wonder why? Instead of being about the treatment of deportees, or those denied entry to Japan (different categories, by the way), it’s become about you and who do you believe?

    I’m curious. In any of your 2000 articles published by media around the world, have you written about this before? Or during your nearly 25 years in Japan were you oblivious, or indifferent, to it?

    Are you indignant because this could happen? Or because it could happen to you?

    Is it because you never thought “Japan” could to this to:

    a white male college professor from the United States…

    Other educated white males from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia…

    Another Western male said he was jailed for two weeks, deported, and banned for five years…

    …forcing foreigners — including Westerners — to sign documents they don’t understand…

    …other Westerners expelled from Japan…

    …accounts from Westerners detained, mistreated, and deported from Japan, often due to bureaucratic errors or misunderstandings….

    …Yet another male, with an Anglo-saxon name…

    Because you see, CJ, you are putting your story forward on the blog of a man who has, over the same period of time, campaigned for, and made a difference to, the rights of non-Japanese in Japan regardless of where they came from or the hue of their skin. People who are abused and mistreated every day of their lives.

    Who is your story really about, CJ? And why do we even need to be having a discussion about credibility?

  • I believe that you have had some very interesting experiences over the years as a professional journalist.

    And:

    I believe that you are still refusing to say whether you were returning on a humanities visa or a tourist visa.

    We don’t hate you CJ, we hate the act of dishonesty. If your humanities visa expired while in Korea: admit it.

    And remember, if you were working in Japan as a journalist with a humanities visa, the reality is: that isn’t legal.

    I’m totally against the whole idea of a person being labeled “illegal” based on lacking government-permission-to-work.

    I’m totally against the reality that people lacking government-permission-to-work are being illegally abused by guards.

    And, friend, I’m totally against supporting someone who writes, “I was legal” when actually they were working illegally.

    I’m not against “working illegally: working without government-permission-to-work”, see, I’m against lying about it.

    I’m for honesty, I’m for truth: perhaps you simply didn’t realize it is illegal to do journalism on a humanities visa.

    You should have admitted it up-front, you should have admitted it when asked, you definitely should admit it now.

    Any sentence you write now is counter-productive, unless you write, “OK, I’ll admit my visa/status history now.”

  • I don’t think there is any need for me to add further to the pile-on, but the demand for me to come out and reveal my “real name and life story” is quite funny. I’d expect a decent journalist to manage to click a link and/or use google.

  • In an answer to questions:

    I knew about the issue of mistreatment of foreigners a long time ago. I learned to speak Thai before Japanese, so I knew about Thais smuggled into Japan in cargo holds and sleeping in a box under bridges. I wrote about these issues in my book Siamese Dreams. I agree with you, Debito has done great work on this issue. In the past year, most of my work has been from the tsunami zone and Fukushima.

    About the accusation of dishonesty: If the New York Times (one of my strings the past 10 years) are working on an investigative piece blowing the lid off some heavy issue, are they dishonest for not revealing all their sources and info on chat sites before going to publication with the story? Of course not. That is my present situation. I’m a working journalist, and I’m working with editors on this, and lawyers. Do you really expect me to give my story away to everybody for free? I’m not an “NHK stooge” getting paid for one job while doing another or commenting on chat sites.

    As per James. I’m sorry but I’m really pressed for time. I simply don’t have time to do research into everybody posting comments online. What I really need to know are who are the guards at Narita. Can anybody tell me that, with certainty?

  • Trustbutverify: I agree with you on that. To me, it’s ridiculous that people are trying to figure out the visa status of an expelled white guy when a Nepali man was murdered on the street in Osaka. Did you not read my detailed account of Mr. Suraj from Ghana, and all the victims from other Asia? I’ve actually spent more time in Thailand, Myanmar than Japan, if you add it all up. My first book was about Thailand, not Japan.

  • The real question here is “Was this really about his visa status?” They let him on the plane, so he must have appeared to be entering the country legally. Also, he’s apparently been allowed to do this for years. Now, technically, was he doing journalism in Japan on a non-journalist visa? Could be. But if that is the case, he should be informed and ordered to leave, not ambushed at the airport. I think what got him on “the list” was this article: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111218x2.html (about a guy who refuses to leave the Fukushima nuclear fallout exclusion zone, and is feeding hundreds of abandoned animals). The government doesn’t want people to know about this, because it’s a problem and something needs to be done about it and it will cost a lot of money. So instead of going after the people who caused the problem, they go after the whistle blower. Ever hear of the Tokyo Two? These two anti-whaling activists caught whalers embezzling whale meat, intercepted the shipment, and took it to the police. And what happened? The activists were detained, tied to chairs, interrogated for days, and then taken to court, for “stealing” whale meat. The whalers were not charged. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Two

  • Of course the government is not going to expel him for doing “illegal journalism”, because only countries with something to hide do things like that.

    Instead of being all over Johnson about his visa status, how about some details from Immigration about exactly why he was deported?

  • While I agree that nobody should be subjected to any kind of abuse by immigration or airport security regardless of whether or not they have a valid visa, it cannot be ignored that one’s credibility when making claims of abuse is an absolute necessity. It appears to me that by leaving out details about his visa status, using vague language in relation to his visa status and insisting that his visa status does not matter, Mr.Johnson has damaged his credibility and that leads to legitimate doubts about whether other details in his account are correct or at least whether they may be exaggerated. Mr.Johnson is thereby doing a disservice to all those who have experienced abuse at the hands of Japanese immigration and airport security because their accounts may now also be taken into doubt even if they didn’t hide any information nor exaggerated their accounts.

    I am not saying that there is no abuse going on at Japanese immigration. In fact I know there is abuse because I have been subject to such abuse myself. Yet, it is precisely because of this that I have reason to doubt Mr.Johnson’s account.

    Several years ago, I think it was in 2004, I had totally forgotten to renew my spouse visa when I was on my way out of Japan for a short trip to Taiwan. I forgot all about the renewal because it had been the first 3-year visa I had been granted. When I was on a yearly renewal period it was easy to remember, but when it changed to 3-yearly renewal, I simply forgot. On my way out, the immigration officer noticed that the visa was several months overdue for renewal and I was escorted into a back room for questioning.

    They were rather unfriendly even shouting at me because they didn’t want to believe that I had simply forgotten the renewal. They were insulting me with questions like “are you a messy person?” and giving me several examples of what other important things I might be forgetting that one simply doesn’t forget. Apparently, they were trying to get me into a situation where I would say that I am a tidy person who never forgets any important things and therefore provide proof that I could not possibly have forgotten the renewal but that there was something sinister on my part, that I might have done it on purpose. All the way they were outright hostile, abusive in their language and tone and they were threatening me with being locked up for months or getting deported never being able to come back to Japan.

    I was astonished at their attitude because I had expected the usual Japanese process of writing a letter of apology with a promise that it would not happen again and sign it, then be let off. When I suggested that I would write an apology and sign it, the immigration officers said that there was now a crack down by the Japanese government on illegal immigration and that things were no longer that easy. Then I said that I understood they wanted to teach me a lesson and that I probably deserved it but at the same time I begged them to believe me it was a genuine mistake. I then asked them if the Japanese government had not laid out any provisions for people who made a genuine mistake. I think it took the good part of an hour until they finally accepted that it was a genuine mistake on my part.

    Finally, they did make me write that letter of apology and gave me two choices: I could either leave Japan as planned but then I would not be able to return to Japan for five years, or I could go back home and be processed by immigration to have a new visa issued which in the case of overstayers would take about a year during which time I would not be able to leave Japan, not even leave the Tokyo area where I lived without obtaining prior permission from immigration. I chose the latter option and had to go through a very painful and humiliating process at immigration, reporting there every so many weeks, having immigration officers making intrusive checks on our private lives to verify if I was genuinely married and living with my wife etc etc etc. While I was going through this process, I also witnessed abuse of other foreigners who had overstayed their visas. In particular I witnessed that the abuse was worst for those from countries the Japanese consider inferior or whose governments they don’t like.

    From this experience, I know that Japanese immigration are abusive and intimidating and even often racist. I also talked to other overstayers and heard their stories. Before this background I am very sceptic of Mr.Johnson’s account. I do not believe that immigration would be motivated to deny entry to a citizen of a country like Canada who has his paperwork completely in order simply because he’s written unfavourable articles about Japan. It’s not entirely impossible but applying Occam’s razor here would rule this out in the face of a host of more likely reasons such as an immigration officer under pressure to catch more illegals and some tiny technicality in Mr.Johnson’s paperwork not being in order. He may well have had a valid visa, but he might not have had a valid reentry permit, or his alien registration card might have expired. Of course none of this justifies abuse (verbal or otherwise) but nevertheless, to me, the accuracy of Mr.Johnson’s account is in doubt.

  • Debito, this is honestly getting ridiculous. First Chris refuses to discuss his visa due to “privacy concerns” – this despite his freely giving us all (through his blog, and then here) his name, his partner’s name, the band she plays in, his father’s name, his brother’s name, the bands his brother is associated with, where his house is in Tokyo, his dogs’ ages, breeds, colors etc. etc. etc. Basically his entire life history, with all the personal bits left in, except his visa status on December 23rd.

    Then he tells The Economist he can’t reveal his visa status “on his lawyer’s advice”. Fine.

    Now he says he can’t tell us because he was “undercover” for the Washington Times, and they are paying him, so he has to leave some details for them to print.

    What’s next – he was actually working for CSIS on a top-secret clearance, and he could tell us the truth but then he’d have to kill us?

    And how could Chris have been on an undercover assignment for the Washington Times, or any other paper, trying to uncover what actually happens in the deportation centres or the holding area at Narita if all his papers were in order and he was legal in Japan, as he insists? If he were legal, he wouldn’t have been denied entry, would have sailed through immigration and back home, and no story. If he were really undercover, he would have had to have known he’d be stopped and held. These two possibilities are mutually exclusive.

    It is time to cut Chris loose. While there are very real problems with the private security company that handles those denied entry to Japan (as you and the mainstream Japanese press have documented, but sadly without a real solution being reached), and with the detention centres run by Japanese Immigration (as you and Amnesty have documented), the very serious questions about Chris’ honesty and integrity as well as Chris’ own behavior when challenged have become a serious impediment to getting to the bottom of the issue. Sadly, Chris has made this entire story about him, and he has also made it all to easy to discredit what he says due to his omissions, fabrications and obfuscations.

    And Chris – you’re not helping yourself by endlessly coming up with new excuses for withholding information that is crucial to understanding exactly what happened to you on December 23rd and 24th. Nor does your hyperbole and name-dropping help, especially when you name-drop and get key facts wrong or else omit them. Your supposed roommate, Christian Wurtenburg, was not killed by “Serbian Chetniks”, he was assassinated by Jorge Eduardo Rosza Flores, commander of the so-called International Brigade (PIV). Christian went undercover and joined the PIV to expose the source of their funding and weapons, was discovered, and Flores had him killed. This is all well documented, surely you noticed your roommate was a “mercenary”, or at least knew the truth behind his death?

    And Danny Bloom? He has told his own story online, he was not in a “fiery crash” in Alaska, his plane had an engine fire in-flight, scary enough, granted, but landed safely. There was no “crash”, Danny’s own version of events made that clear.

    You have a story to tell, about an important issue that needs to be made public. Tell that story, with all the facts, and without the hyperbole, and you may yet get people on your side. Perhaps. It may, however, be too late. You’ve lost a lot of people already, including a lot of people here, like myself, who want to see the problems at Narita and the detention centres addressed and resolved.

  • @BK I’ve always found it incredibly unfair that the government sends reminder postcards to people about when their driving licenses expire (something with less catastrophic effects than visas) but not to people whose visas area about to expire. Seems like it would be fairly easy to do. They could even pay for it out of the visa fees 🙂

    — Quite. I’ve always had the feeling that Immigration is looking for any excuse to reset your visa clock.

  • Name Required says:

    Hi. I read the original article. I am prepared to believe the basic ugliness of the system.

    I hope the finished articles has all the tabloid-esque hyperbole stripped out of it because at present it is utterly counterproductive.

    I have no idea where these guys learn the technique but how it seems to work is that you have to throw in some completely unrelated, stomach churning details in order to sicken/frighten/impress people and, somehow, that is supposed to in some way discredit the target even more and make the attack even more efficient.

    I hope the guy adopts this as his life cause. Significant changes have to be made but I guess they will happen incrementally, e.g. fix prices for detention, fair prices for airfares, removing any graft or shakedowns etc. Accountability.

    It funny how a such a hi-tech country, and one of the greatest manufacturers of solid state memory and recording devices are unable to fit out their detention and interview rooms with recorders.

    — Not strange at all. The GOJ and the NPA don’t want them. What’s strange is the logic. See Item 59 of the GOJ’s response to the UNHRC in 2008: “On the issue of the video-recording of interrogations, the Delegation stated that statements by the suspect is important in order to elucidate the truth in investigations and that the mandating to record all interrogation sometimes can hamper relations between the investigator and the criminal, and may serve to stop the suspect from telling the truth. Japan noted that a careful consideration is needed of the introduction of such monitoring and video-taping.” You read that right. Videotaping interrogations might force suspects to lie. This doublethink remains unchanged four years later.

  • In regards to questions about facts:

    Deported US journalist Danny Bloom told me his own story about the plane crash, so I go with that, not what you read online.
    Christian Wurtenburg’s family told me about his brutal murder; his head was cut off. How does the anonymous writer know what really happened to Chris. Was he there? If so, tell us more, and maybe put your name on it for all to see your credibility.
    Where do I claim I was “undercover” for the Washington Times? In fact, I did about 100 stories for them in 2011. All can be found online.
    My family live in the public eye, and are well-respected.
    My visa status has been explained on my blog.
    The vast majority of sensible people will see through the attempts by a small group of people trying to twist facts and my words to serve an agenda to smear my character in order to deny or cover up rights abuses confirmed by the Tokyo District Court, Amnesty International, and others.

  • Perhaps you could verify if this story is true:

    World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer was detained upon arrival in Narita in 2004. According to Canadian journalist Jon Bosnitch, who was working with NHK in Japan at that time, the Bush Administration told Japanese authorities that it had “revoked” Fischer’s passport. The US wanted to bring Fischer to trial in the United States for playing in a World Chess Championship rematch in Yugoslavia in 1992 in alleged violation of U.S. presidential sanctions against economic activity with Yugoslavia. Japanese immigration authorities jailed Fischer at Narita Airport detention center for 16 days, and then sent him to a long-term detention center pending deportation to the United States. Bosnitch was allowed to visit Fischer in the Narita jail, and he set up the “Committee to Free Bobby Fischer”. After 9 months of legal wrangling, Fischer renounced his United States citizenship, obtained full Icelandic citizenship, and was allowed to leave Japan for Iceland. He died 3 years later at age 64.

  • Finally, CJ writes:

    “Though I had work visas dating back to 1989, and papers saying the government had acknowledged the receipt of my application to renew my work visa, I was detained at Narita airport and expelled.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:JH2aPEpXrCgJ:globalite.posterous.com/inside-the-gaijin-tank-dungeon-at-narita-airp-91122&hl=en&strip=1

    This has now been noticed and discussed here:

    http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/01/23/christopher-johnson-discloses-visa-information-work-visa-application-paperwork-but-no-approval/

    But now, CJ has DELETED that sentence! What’s up with that CJ? Why delete?

    CJ, look, simply having handed in an application doesn’t mean you were approved!

  • As per the arguments that my account lacks credibility because civilians can’t carry guns in Japan, the Immigration Control and Refugee-Recognition Act, (under which I was excluded), says the following:

    (Carrying and Use of Weapons)
    Article 61-4 An immigration inspector and an immigration control officer may carry weapons in executing their duties.

    (2) An immigration inspector and an immigration control officer may use their weapons with respect to execution of their duties within the limits judged to be reasonably necessary according to the circumstances. However, they shall not injure a person except in any of the following cases.

    (i) The case falls under Article 36 or 37 of the Penal Code.
    (ii) The person subject to enforcement of a written detention order or deportation order attempts to resist the immigration inspector or immigration control officer executing his/her duties with respect to such person, or a third person resists the immigration inspector or immigration control officer in an attempt to let the said person escape, and the immigration inspector or immigration control officer has reasonable grounds to believe that there are no alternative means to prevent such resistance or escape.

    Article 61-7 A person detained in an immigration detention center or detention house (hereinafter referred to as “detainee”) shall be given maximum liberty consistent with the security requirements of the immigration detention center or the detention house.

    =========

    While many foreigners think Japan is a relatively gun-free society, Article 61-4 of the Japanese immigration act confirms that immigration officers are allowed to carry and use weapons. They can use these weapons to restrain you, force you onto a flight, or injure you if you resist.

    Most red-eyed foreign arrivals also don’t realize that the immigration officers taking their fingerprints and scanning their passports are working with colleagues who have been accused in court of murdering “Mac Barry”, a longtime foreign resident of Japan, while they were forcing him onto an Egypt Air flight at Narita.

    — Source please for Mac Berry.

  • Japan’s Immigration Act says nothing about the legality of guards demanding “fees”, typically between 30,000 and 60,000 yen, from detainees.

    Most people breeze through Narita. Get in, get out. But behind the scenes, innocent passengers, who have no previous records, are often treated like criminals, and denied basic rights. This doesn’t only happen in Japan, of course. But in Canada, for example, every visitor is instantly covered under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the moment they step into the country. That’s not the case in Japan, where foreigners have little rights.

  • CJ, the only infomation on Christian Wurtenberg’s death on the web says he was strangled either by, or under the orders of Elodes Tóásó Mario Tadic, who worked for the Croats. No Chetniks, and likely no decapitation (The Time link says he was garotted, which could cause significant trauma to the neck, though actual decapitation is very unlikely).

    Refs: http://randompottins.blogspot.com/2010/02/croatia-to-bolivia-via-ireland.html

    http://www.politics.ie/forum/foreign-affairs/61194-irish-involved-bolivia-assassination-attempt-328.html

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1892945,00.html

  • Christopher Johnson has been caught posting on the Economist using the pen-name imcanjapn!

    A poster there, guest-iismsmo, noticed it and pointed it out here:
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1221675#comment-1221675

    Thus outed, Christopher Johnson put down the imcanjapn pen-name.
    Folks, go read all 32 of imcanjapn’s comments with this in mind,
    you’ll realize that guest-iismsmo is absolutely correct about this,
    from his first comment to last, Chris has been posting as imcanjapn!
    https://www.economist.com/users/imcanjapn/comments

    He has been talking about himself using the third person narrative.
    For example, “The guy is one of the top journalists in Asia for years.”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218843#comment-1218843

    Here Christopher Johnson is dropping some (he hopes) friends’ names:
    “Hiroko Tabuchi, Justin McCurry, Chico Harlan, Jake Adelstein”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1219691#comment-1219691

    Here Christopher Johnson admits the real reason he was denied entry:
    “one government official told [me] one thing, another told [me] something different.”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218119#comment-1218119

    Here Christopher Johnson tells why he thought he would be allowed in:
    “[I] was on a tourist visa, after working in Japan for years”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218156#comment-1218156

    Here Christopher Johnson explains why there is no way he’s racist:
    “[I] was living with [my] Japanese partner and dogs, in Japan”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218170#comment-1218170

    Defending his “Canadian Platinum” record help, CJ briefly became Jenny-O:
    “the Japanese embassy has you working over-time on seeding doubt about Mr.Johnson’s story.”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1217887#comment-1217887

    Then back to the imcanjapn handle, CJ brags us about helping his brother:
    “Duhhhh. [I’m] related to the leader of Big Sugar. [We] are brothers.”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218097#comment-1218097

    3 hours after the bold CJ/Jenny-O “Japanese embassy worker” accusation,
    now CJ/imcanjapn accuses a poster of being a government worker:
    “you are working for the government of Japan”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218111#comment-1218111

    2 minutes later CJ/imcanjapn accuses a poster of being a government spokesperson:
    “you are a spokesman for the Japanese government”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218116#comment-1218116

    26 minutes later, CJ/imcanjapn accuses a poster of being a government officer:
    “you are a government officer, it seems you have done research into [my] file.”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218170#comment-1218170

    Here Chris defends his refusal to not admit his visa status without payment:
    “Would you work for free, if you had a hot story like [mine]?”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1219689#comment-1219689

    When someone posted they personally witnessed CJ swearing during entry denial:
    “[I] was being thrown out of Japan, which had effectively become [my] home.”
    “You prefer [I] act like a sheep and bow at the feet of people”
    “[I] was swearing about having [my] life taken away from [me] in Japan”
    “You are a key witness who could appear in court in a human rights case.”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218104#comment-1218104

    Here CJ gets close to admitting the truth about himself, very close:
    “[You] don’t know what [my] visa status was, and even if [I] was illegal…”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218234#comment-1218234

    Here CJ gets closer to admitting the truth about himself, getting hotter:
    “How do you know [I am] lying? Were you there?”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1218238#comment-1218238

    Finally, here is the burning post where CJ REALLY shot himself in the foot:
    “[My] blog days ago said [I] had a work visa”
    http://www.economist.com/comment/1219706#comment-1219706

    That’s it right there. End of the line, because as noted, that’s a lie.
    What he wrote on his blog is that he had a “receipt of application.”
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:JH2aPEpXrCgJ:globalite.posterous.com/inside-the-gaijin-tank-dungeon-at-narita-airp-91122&hl=en&strip=1

    His application. Period. He had no work visa. He merely APPLIED for one.
    He tried to delete that admittance from the internet, but too late, it’s archived.
    http://i.imgur.com/U5EDf.jpg

    Christopher Johnson, CJ, Jenny-O, imcanjapn: it’s over. You’re done.
    I suggest you select a new name to use now, your credibility is shot.

    You had a good chance to alert the world to PRIVATE-GUARD illegalities.
    Instead, you pretended Immigration Officers did something illegal to you.
    You pretended that you were a legal worker in Japan with a legal valid visa.

    You messed up bro. We’ve all been there, but you really went deep into lying.
    Finally, there is not much left to say. Pick yourself up, and be an HONEST man.

    The End. And hopefully, a fresh beginning for your soul starting right now.

  • CJ, the full protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms do not exist at the border. Indeed, I can think of no legal regime in the world where different standards are not applied to the border context than they are to normal state actions within the border.

    http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/charter_digest/s-8.html

    “The unique context that border crossings present was recognized by this Court in R. v. Simmons. In Dehghani v. Canada, Iacobucci J. observed: “Individuals expect to undergo questioning with respect to their entry into Canada whether that be in the immigration or customs context. These interests and expectations dictate that examination of a person for purposes of entry must be analyzed differently from the questioning of a person within Canada.””

    Furthermore, Japanese criminal procedure differs greatly from Western criminal procedure, as Japanese police have powers of pre-charging detention that would be extraordinary here. This applies to all criminal suspects, and not just foreigners. It is unsurprising that under the lower standards of border searches/seizures that the Japanese authorities would have even more power.

    Finally, while “an immigration inspector and an immigration control officer” may be permitted to carry “weapons,” weapons ≠ firearms. Furthermore, the law makes it clear that they are only permitted to use “weapons” in a defensive capacity — and not in an attempt to force you onto a plane. Additionally, this right seems to be restricted to governmental employees, and the inference from your account is that the Chinese-looking person in your account was not a government official.

  • Repeating a lie 100,000 times doesn’t make it true, even one time.
    Twisting facts doesn’t make them a fact.
    Assassinating someone’s character doesn’t kill the person. It only makes them stronger. Successful people in the public eye all realize this at some point.
    I’m going with the story according to Christian’s family, not according to NHK or Serbian propaganda.
    Source for Mac Barry is ghanaweb.com.
    I’m going with the Narita corruption story based on my direct observations, letters from about 10 past victims, Tokyo District Court decision, reports in Amnesty International and Japan Times and other media sources, and Japan’s Immigration Control Act.
    Overwhelming evidence will outlast the sickening smear campaign.

  • Important question to clear up: Was it Immigration Officers that extorted money while showing a firearm, or, was it Private Guards?

  • It’s hard to say. His uniform seemed different than the KB’s (keibi). He was not in full police uniform, which we all recognize, with the big vest and other things. It was the first time I saw him, and it happened fast. He was smaller than me, and he was alone (except for the Asiana person and some keibis.) He came into the room, and did what I described on my blog (please refer to my own version, not the Economist one.) He didn’t take the gun out or point it at my head (that happened to me in Yugoslavia and other places, but not in Japan.) He said what I wrote that he said. Not long after that, I was being whisked through the airport to the departure lounge. Things started to happen fast.
    Keep in mind that I wrote down everything on the plane from Tokyo to Vancouver, while it was fresh.

    He was probably not a Tokyo police or Narita police officer because, as you know, they would normally work in teams, not alone.

    The other thing is that the police (big uniforms, etc..) (keisatsu) at Narita both days (Dec. 23 and 24) seemed really kind and sympathetic toward me. I don’t believe that (keisatsu) would ever do something like that. Japanese keisatsu are very professional and well-mannered, in all my personal experience with them.

    — CJ, while I appreciate your assiduousness with responding to comments, it’s getting mendoukusai to have to paste together your comments (the above are from three separate ones in rapid succession) answering undefined commenters (and they’ve gotten rather haphazard in quality anyway). I think we’ve gotten pretty much all the information out that we need regarding this issue on Debito.org. It’s probably best for commentary to go elsewhere, preferably on your own site, so let’s draw it to a close.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I wish Debito would close this thread. Quite frankly, it’s a distraction from real issues (such as the murder of the Nepalese man in Osaka).
    I think most people made up their minds about CJ’s story a week ago. Nothing he has posted on any site since then has brought any of the ‘haters’ around to believe in him, probably the exact opposite. I don’t expect that state of affairs to change given CJ’s ability to alienate people with his arrogant and offensive comments.
    The real story is documented by Amnesty International. I think no-one is disputing that those allegations need to be investigated and answered. CJ is just generating a lot of noise and confusion.

    — Yes, let’s draw this to a conclusion. Thanks everyone for commenting.

  • Rather not say this time says:

    Agree also this thread should be closed, but in quick sum and regardless of what caused Immigration to (arbitrarily) turn their attention to Chris, which only he (may) know:

    I think it is important for all of us to realize that if you have applied for a Work Visa, and/or you don’t have one that is current, and your situation might be construed as ‘work’, attempting to enter Japan might just be a life altering experience. And not for the better.

    If this is also true generally, visa exempt (tourist), with the proper and valid Visa… this event and Amnesty’s work say there may remain some questions.

  • “I am surprised at how many white male Westerners have been detained and expelled, in addition to the mistreatment of thousands of Asians, Africans and others. ”

    I’m a bit insulted by you saying that CJ. Why should you be surprised that white males are being detailed and deported in addition to “darker” people? Are you implying that white male Westerners should be treated better than asians, africans and others? Are you expected to be treated better as a gaijin because you are a white male?

  • I hope you will amend the post now that Johnson has admitted that he did not have a valid visa at all, but was instead planning on entering and working in Japan on a tourist waiver while applying for a *new* work visa (*not* a renewal application, he had allowed the old one to simply lapse while he was out of the country). Whether or not someone in authority had told him this would be OK, it puts a very different spin on his story:

    http://globalite.posterous.com/gotcha-bureaucracy-and-a-freelancers-visa-sta

    (though if history is a guide, he will probably change the post to obscure the important details)

  • James, I skimmed the post you link to and it seems a fairly accurate chronology of how the Japanese visa process has changed over the years. Anyway, if a Japanese official decides he’s going to “get” a gaijin it’s pretty easy as the ever-shifting rules describe a weird world: both vague and strict, fluid and tangled. For example if you swim in an outdoor pool you can be detained for not having your gaijin card on your person (while you are in the water). I was told this by a cop. I’ve been detained for not carrying my passport, despite having a valid gaijin card on my person. I’m surprised you don’t seem aware of this sort of thing.

    That said, the CJ story remains a personal account, he’s telling his side of the story from his point of view. it would be better if a disinterested journalist wrote it up properly.

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