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Hi Blog. Here’s something interesting and something to support if you are a Japanese living abroad — the maintenance of your legal identity in the form of dual nationality.
The Asahi reports that several Japanese citizens in Europe unprecedentedly plan to sue the government to abolish the law forcing Japanese to pick one nationality if they take another. Some emigres also want to undo the damage and restore their Japanese nationality.
Naturally, Debito.org wholeheartedly supports this effort. For too long the embedded binary of “you’re either Japanese or you’re not” (an Ichi-ro or a Ze-ro) has done untold social damage to people of multiple ethnicities and identities. Nobody in power has ever really listened to them, so now it’s time for the monoethnic Japanese abroad, who want inclusivity for their newfound diversity, to take up the charge.
Here’s hoping they get heard. Because others who have championed this sort of thing (such as MP Kouno Taro nearly a decade ago) got nowhere even in their own ruling political party. Enough Japanese already have dual. Let’s have the law reflect reality (and not institutionalize identity policing) at last. Dr. Debito Arudou
Japanese abroad plan first lawsuit demanding dual citizenship
By ICHIRO MATSUO/ Correspondent
The Asahi Shinbun, February 26, 2018
PHOTO CAPTION: Hitoshi Nogawa, a Japanese-born citizen in Basel, Switzerland, holds his now invalid Japanese passport in Geneva on Feb. 13. The Japanese government refused to renew it in 2015 after he gained Swiss citizenship. (Ichiro Matsuo)
GENEVA–Japanese residing in Europe plan to file a lawsuit demanding the right to dual citizenship, arguing that the Japanese law that forces people to pick only one nationality are outdated, unconstitutional and invalid.
The lawsuit, to be filed against the government at the Tokyo District Court next month, will be the first litigation of its kind, according to the legal team of the eight would-be plaintiffs, who include Japanese living in Switzerland and France.
Six of them have been granted foreign citizenship and want to restore their Japanese nationality.
However, Section 1 in Article 11 of the Nationality Law stipulates that if “a Japanese citizen acquires the nationality of a foreign country at his/her choice, he/she loses Japanese nationality.”
The remaining two want to confirm that they can keep their Japanese citizenship even if they obtain a foreign nationality.
Teruo Naka, a lawyer for the group, says it is unreasonable for Japanese to lose their nationality at a time when they have growing opportunities to live and work regardless of national borders.
“The plaintiffs are hoping to keep their Japanese nationality out of an attachment to Japan and ties with their relatives living in Japan,” he said.
The plaintiffs are expected to argue in court that Section 1 in Article 11 was originally established to prevent the granting of multiple citizenship from the perspective of compulsory military service when the 1890 Constitution of the Empire of Japan was in effect. That clause was automatically passed into the current Nationality Law, which became effective in 1950, after the postwar Constitution took effect in 1947.
Sovereignty rested with the emperor under the previous Constitution, known as the Meiji Constitution. The current Constitution upholds sovereignty of the people.
They will also argue that a wide disparity has grown between the ideal of a single nationality, championed since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and the current realities of globalization.
The group will also contend that the right to retain Japanese nationality is guaranteed under articles of the current Constitution.
Article 13 of the postwar Constitution, for example, guarantees the right to the pursuit of happiness, they said. Paragraph 2 of Article 22, they noted, states, “Freedom of all persons to move to a foreign country and to divest themselves of their nationality shall be inviolate.”
Unlike in the United States and some European countries, where residents can hold more than one citizenship, the Japanese law still pushes for a single nationality.
Individuals with dual or multiple citizenship, such as children born to Japanese and foreign nationals, are required to select one nationality by the age of 22 under the Nationality Law. Their numbers have increased in recent years with the rise in international marriages in Japan.
If Japanese citizens obtain a foreign nationality through, for example, an international marriage, they are legally obliged to renounce either the foreign or Japanese nationality within two years.
But there is no clause that penalizes those who do not come forward to announce their decision.
“Only those who honestly declare their selection in compliance with the law lose their Japanese nationality,” one of the plaintiffs said.
It is common for Japanese families overseas to acquire the citizenship of their host country for business or employment opportunities.
Hitoshi Nogawa, 74, who leads the plaintiffs and serves as head of the Japanese community in Basel, Switzerland, said he needed Swiss citizenship to enable his company to participate in defense-related public works projects in the country.
Another plaintiff said it is common practice for Japanese expatriates to use their Japanese passports only when they return and leave Japan. Inside their host country, they use the citizenship they have acquired there for business.
It is widely believed that many Japanese with dual citizenship have not declared their status. But not coming forward can lead to problems.
In 2016, questions arose about the nationality of Renho, an Upper House member who then headed the main opposition party. She was born in Japan to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother, and doubts were raised that she had renounced her Taiwanese citizenship under the Nationality Law. She produced documents showing she did so in 2016.
According to the Foreign Ministry, about 460,000 Japanese with resident status were living overseas as of October 2016. It was not clear how many of them actually held more than one nationality.
Justice Ministry statistics showed that the number of Japanese who renounced their Japanese nationality after selecting a foreign citizenship or for other reasons ranged from 700 to 1,000 annually between 2012 and 2016.
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