(Scanned by Olaf Karthaus (firstname.lastname@example.org))
Page Down to Olaf's comments and analysis on this survey in English:
"DECREASE IN HUMAN RIGHTS SUPPORT FOR FOREIGNERS IN JAPAN"
This is a supplement to a topic I brought up within my recent on
Politics in Japan essay. Not written by me this time, but by colleague (and
co-Plaintiff in the Otaru Onsens Case) Olaf Karthaus (email@example.com). It
includes a link to the pages of the actual report in Japanese. His analysis
and thoughts follow.
The point is that foreigner bashing, racial profiling, and general crime
fearmongering by Japanese politicians and police have caused quantifable
social damage. According to this survey, more people think foreigners
justifiably deserve fewer rights simply because they are foreigners. This
is not a healthy trend for Japanese society. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
DECREASE IN HUMAN RIGHTS SUPPORT FOR FOREIGNERS IN JAPAN
By Olaf Karthaus, (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 14, 2003 (revised)
On April 12, the Japanese government published a report on human rights
of foreigners in Japan.
The scanned report (10 pages) can be seen in Japanese at
3000 Japanese citizens were asked if they think that foreigners should
enjoy protection of human rights to the extent of Japanese.
In the following I will give my analysis of part of the data. The poll
is a bonanza of information.
Overall, 54% said that foreigners should have the same protection of
human rights as Japanese (nihon kokuseki wo motanai hito demo, nihonjin
to onaji you ni jinken ha mamorubeki da). This is a steady decline from
68.3% 10 years ago, and 65.5% 5 years ago.
Reasons why can only be speculated upon, but newspaper articles quote
the Justice Ministry as sayingthat maybe the sudden rise in crime by
foreigners may have affected the outcome of the poll.
In the same period, the percentage of people who answered that "it can't
be helped" that foreigners have not the same rights (nihon kokuseki wo
motanai hito ha nihonjin to onaji you na kenri wo motte inakutemo
shikata ga nai) first fell from 20.4 to 18.5% and then rose to 21.8%,
and thus is more or less unchanged.
Interestingly, the percentage of people answering 'I don't know' or
'neither' more than doubled from 11.2% to 24.3%.
Japanese people do not seem to know what to make of the 'problem' of
human rights. This is due to the lack of decisive political action to
clearly establish that human rights have to be protected, no matter for
which nationality. The lack of clear legislation and court decisions
create a vacuum which leaves lots of space for ambiguity.
There is also a clear trend concerning the age, education level and
living conditions of the polled persons. The older the person, the less
supportive he/she is for protection of foreigners (more than 64% in the
20-39 age bracket, but only 39.4% in the above 70 years bracket. 64%
among people who live in a megapolis but only 47% who live in rural
areas. More than 64% among students and office clerks, but an alarming
low number of 19.4% among farmers and fishermen in family businesses)
Very interesting differences also exist if the person polled says he "knows
about basic human rights".
57.6% of the people who knew basics about human rights (kihonteki jinken
ni tsuite no shuuchido shitteiru) support same human rights for
foreigners, and only 19.7% said "shikata ga nai".
This clearly shows that the better the general education and the
knowledge of the basics of human rights is, the higher is the acceptance
that foreigners should enjoy the same protection as Japanese.
It seems that the lack of proper information to the Japanese people is
one of the reasons why the support for the protection of foreigners' rights
in Japan is dwindling.
Moreover, the most unsupportive people are those, who barely have any
contact with foreigners (rural people in farming and fishing business).
This also proves the lack of information on the issue. Lack of
information is by the way the best breeding ground to build up prejudice.
If the Japanese government, especially the Human Rights Bureau of the
Justice Department (Jinken yougobu) would intensify their efforts in
educating the unknowing, the result of the polls would be better. The
poll itself gives enough suggestions how to increase awareness: via
internet (71.7%), in workshops (69.3%), in meetings with the elderly
(64.9%), and so on. It has to be noticed that the favorite way of
educating people of the Human Rights Bureau is to issue posters, but
this way of advertising human rights was ranked second to last (only
57.3% thought this would be effective) among the polled people.
When I and friend Arudou Debito asked officials of the Sapporo Jinken
yougobu on April 15 what they intended to do to counteract this trend, they
basically said, "study the problem and deliberate" (kentou shimasu)--the
default answer. When Arudou pushed (as he usually does) for specific
measures, they said more of what they have been doing so far--posters,
passive publicity, etc. They pointed to a rack of pamphlets talking about
discrimination in general, but nothing pushing the specific idea of
"foreigner as fellow resident and taxpayer".
Furthermore, an important question not raised in the survey was, "Would
society benefit from a clear-cut legislation guaranteeing human rights?"
Away from the present ambiguity to a clear framework indicating the dos and
don'ts of human rights in Japan.
Here is the final and even more basic question: why is such a survey
necessary anyway? Why is "should we guarantee people their human rights?"
even presented as an option? Shouldn't it be clear and common sense that
people should enjoy the same level of human rights, regardless of
Not so in Japan, it seems.