In an event sure to make my year-end top ten most important human rights issues of 2014, Japan’s highest court just overturned the Fukuoka High Court’s 2011 decision, ruling that an octogenarian granny who, despite being born in Japan, living her life here as a Zainichi Special Permanent Resident, and contributing to Japan’s social welfare systems, has no right to the benefits of her contributions because she’s foreign (i.e., not “kokumin”). More comment after the articles:
JT: The Supreme Court ruled Friday that foreigners with permanent residency status are ineligible for welfare benefits, overturning a decision by the Fukuoka High Court that had acknowledged their eligibility under the public assistance law. The decision by the top court’s Second Petit Bench concerned a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency who was born and grew up in Japan. The woman applied for welfare benefits with the Oita municipal office in Oita Prefecture in December 2008 but was denied the benefits on the grounds she had some savings. The woman then filed a suit demanding that the city’s decision be repealed. She is now receiving the benefits because the municipality accepted her welfare application in October 2011. While the recipients of welfare benefits are limited to Japanese nationals by law, the government issued a notice in 1954 saying foreigners should be treated in accordance with the public assistance law. Since the government limited recipients to Japanese nationals and foreigners with permanent residency in 1990, municipalities have exercised their discretion in doling out the benefits. In October 2010, the Oita District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit, saying that denying the public assistance law to foreigners was within the discretion of a municipal government. In November 2011, however, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that foreigners with permanent residency have been protected under the public assistance law.
COMMENT: And now the pendulum has swung again, with a great big Bronx Cheer for all NJ in Japan. More information on what has appeared on Debito.org over the years in this blog entry.
My final thought on this for now is how the online commenters (who consistently blame NJ for anything bad that happens to them) spin this one against the plaintiff? It’s a challenge: She’s an 82-year-old granny Zainichi living her entire life in Japan trying to get her tax benefits back, for heaven’s sake. Still, the reflexes are kicking in. We’ve already had one person commenting at the Japan Times about how this ruling was a means to deal with “illegal immigrants” somehow (the JT immediately spotted this as trolling and deleted it; wish they would be more proactive with my columns as trolls keep derailing any meaningful debate). Any more gems out there, go ahead and quote them in the Comments section below. A ruling this egregiously anti-NJ becomes an interesting psychological experiment to see how far the self-hating gaijin will go to deny they have any rights to anything whatsoever in Japan.
UPDATE JULY 25, 2014: This very blog entry gets cited in the South China Morning Post.