JT: Diet passes Japan’s first law to curb hate speech. Hurrah, but.


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Hi Blog.  A first step towards Debito.org’s overarching goal — a law against racial discrimination in Japan — happened yesterday:  Some kind of legislation to curb public expression of racism, in the form of a law against hate speech.

Now, Debito.org cannot wholeheartedly support this law for the reasons noted in the article below:  It defines “hate speech” only narrow-band (only covering legal residents of Japan), it doesn’t actually encode punishments or penalties, and it joins all of Japan’s other laws that ineffectually ban things only in principle and get ignored in practice (such as Japan’s Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which has not curbed male-female wage and promotion differentials one whit outside of a lengthy and risky Japanese court process).  It is, as critics say below, mere window-dressing to make Japan look like a “civilized” country to its neighbors.  That said, I’m going to opt that it’s better to have some law that acknowledges the existence of a problem (as opposed to what’s been going on before; even the article indicates below there was a hate rally on average more than once a day somewhere in Japan).  Let it potentially chasten xenophobes and indicate that minorities in Japan are here to stay and deserve dignity, respect, and the right to be unstigmatized.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Diet passes Japan’s first law to curb hate speech
The Japan Times, May 24, 2016

Japan’s first anti-hate speech law passed the Diet on Tuesday, marking a step forward in the nation’s long-stalled efforts to curb racial discrimination.

But the legislation has been dogged by skepticism, with critics slamming it as philosophical at best and toothless window dressing at worst.

The ruling coalition-backed law seeks to eliminate hate speech, which exploded onto the scene around 2013 amid Japan’s deteriorating relationship with South Korea.

It is the first such law in a country that has long failed to tackle the issue of racism despite its membership in the U.N.-designated International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Critics, however, have decried the legislation as ineffective.

While it condemns unjustly discriminatory language as “unforgivable,” it doesn’t legally ban hate speech and sets no penalty.

How effective the law will be in helping prevent the rallies frequently organized by ultraconservative groups calling for the banishment or even massacre of ethnic Korean residents remains to be seen.

Critics including the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees have also pointed out the law is only intended to cover people of overseas origin and their descendants “who live legally in Japan.”

The law’s mention of legality, they say, will exclude many foreign residents without valid visas, such as asylum seekers and overstayers.

Submitted by lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, the bill initially limited its definition of hate speech to threats to bodies, lives and freedom of non-Japanese as well as other incendiary language aimed at excluding them.

But at the urging of the Democratic Party, the scope of the legislation was expanded to cover “egregious insults” against foreign residents.

The law defines the responsibility of the state and municipalities in taking measures against hate speech, such as setting up consultation systems and better educating the public on the need to eradicate such language.

The Justice Ministry’s first comprehensive probe into hate speech found in March that demonstrations organized by the anti-Korean activist group Zaitokukai and other conservative organizations still occur on a regular basis, although not all involve invectives against ethnic minorities.

A total of 347 such rallies took place in 2013, while 378 were held in 2014 and 190 from January through September last year, the Justice Ministry said.  ENDS

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12 comments on “JT: Diet passes Japan’s first law to curb hate speech. Hurrah, but.

  • David Chart says:

    The mayor of Kawasaki has just (today) used the law as a basis to refuse a hate group permission to hold a demo in two parks in Kawasaki, explicitly because they held hate demos before and it is obvious that they plan to do so again.

    So it’s not completely toothless, and it is being applied in practice.

    The only mention on the net at the moment appears to be in the Kanagawa Shinbun: http://www.kanaloco.jp/article/175995

  • Kawasaki bars event as likely hate speech
    10:30 pm, May 31, 2016, The Yomiuri Shimbun, courtesy of JK


    KAWASAKI — The Kawasaki city government announced Tuesday that it will not permit the use of municipal parks for a planned demonstration in the city in June, characterizing the planned event as hate speech.

    The city’s decision comes after the Diet on May 24 passed a bill on measures against hate speech, which stirs up discrimination aimed at various ethnic groups.

    According to the city and others, a group gave notification beforehand on the Internet that they would hold a protest in Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki, on June 5, and applied for permission to use two parks in the ward on May 23.

    The city has considered whether it would allow the demonstration in the park by balancing the law against hate speech, which asks local governments to eradicate it, and freedom of speech.

    Ultimately, it decided to deny the application because the group was also likely to march and use discriminatory language and behavior.

    There are many Korean residents in Japan who live in Kawasaki. According to a local association of Korean residents in the city and others, there have been 12 instances of hate speech demonstrations in the city since May 2013.

  • Editorial: Japan needs effective hate speech law to stamp out racist marches
    April 11, 2016 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK


    A bill intended to put a stop to hate speech campaigns directed at people of particular races or ethnicities looks set to be deliberated by the Diet during the current session.

    Hate speech, with its heavy doses of terms like “Kill them!” and “Get out of Japan,” is abusive and libelous, and can stir up racist sentiments. It is, in short, an offense against basic human rights, and it cannot be tolerated. Nevertheless, there is presently nothing stopping the groups that promote this violent rhetoric from spreading their toxic message.

    There were 1,152 confirmed cases of hate speech across the country during the 3 1/2 years ending in September 2015, according to the recently released results of the Justice Ministry’s first-ever investigation into the problem in Japan. That is nearly one incident a day, and it is an absolute embarrassment for a democratic nation such as ours.

    The opposition-sponsored anti-racism bill was followed by one with the backing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito. The ruling and opposition parties should put their heads together to get a law passed halting hate speech as soon as possible.

    Hate speech marches through areas of Tokyo and Osaka that are home to many Korean residents of Japan have been intensifying in recent years, and have been spreading all over the country. Under current law, authorities have only been able to restrict hate speech actions when the perpetrators have committed an illegal act. The Justice Ministry officially labeled hate speech a human rights violation only in December of last year, and warned a former hate group leader to stop the organization’s activities. Although this is certainly a positive step, a warning has no legal power.

    Behind the relatively tame official response to such racist polemics is the fact that hate speech is not in itself illegal. The government, meanwhile, has approached the problem by carefully balancing the principle of freedom of expression with direct regulation.

    In 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination advised the Japanese government to take resolute action against hate speech, and to enact anti-hate speech legislation.

    There are also strong domestic calls for a government response to hate speech. In January of this year, the city of Osaka enacted the country’s first anti-hate speech ordinance. In addition, more than 300 local government assemblies across Japan have adopted a written statement calling on the central government to take appropriate legal action against hate speech, while staying within the Constitutional right to freedom of expression. In these acts, we can see a definite fear that Japan will lose the trust of the international community if hate groups continue to peddle their poisonous polemics unhindered.

    Hate speech doesn’t just damage the dignity of the individual. It can also create a deep well of dread in those subjected to it, including children. Freedom of expression is a very important right — but hate speech is an obvious abuse of that right.

    The LDP-Komeito bill defines hate speech as unjust discrimination. The bill differs greatly from the opposition’s version, which seeks to regulate a wider range of discriminatory acts and calls for the outright ban on hate speech. Neither bill, however, lists a punishment for hate speech violations.

    To the contrary, we believe that Japan needs a law that clearly defines hate speech, preventing broad interpretations that could be warped into threats to the freedom of expression. The law should also include provisions that will have some practical effect, such as giving authorities the power to deny hate groups the use of public facilities and roads for demonstrations.

    It’s time for a show of political strength.

    Japanese version
    ヘイトスピーチ 根絶へ政治の意思示せ
    毎日新聞2016年4月10日 東京朝刊












  • Baudrillard says:

    The Kawasaki government has always been quite progressive and pro NJ resident. Unfortunately pretty laws and shiny new buildings don’t change the undercurrent of intolerance that pulsates through this crime ridden (yakuza rife), backward thinking populace. Just go a few streets from the centre, or a few stations up the Nambu line and you ll see a different side of Japan, which looks (and thinks) far more intolerantly. I have seen daily acts of petty violence and racial abuse in broad daylight, and people just turned a blind eye.

    I am glad they stopped this demo, but twenty years on its same old Kawasaki- a progressive macro level, but a nasty, xenophobic micro level seemingly in defiance of their own local governmentwith signs like :Gaijin ha fuka” commonplace (its the one I used to rip down in passing only for it to come up again).

    A strange city, and a bizarre “double think”.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Another point:
    Cities like Kawasaki have the power to say “No” to racist demonstrations without the backing of a law.
    When you think about it, don’t the organisers of demonstrations have to get police permission first? In which case, the police are implicit in any of these demonstrations.

  • Japanese court issues first-ever injunction against hate-speech rally
    THE JAPAN TIMES, JUN 3, 2016

    A district court in Kanagawa Prefecture has issued a first-ever provisional injunction preventing an anti-Korean activist from holding a rally near the premises of a group that supports ethnic Korean people.

    The injunction, issued Thursday by the Kawasaki branch of the Yokohama District Court, comes just over a week since the nation enacted its first-ever anti-hate speech law.

    The law is being seen as a powerful new tool for use against racist vitriol routinely fired at minorities in Japan.

    The court order was issued against an unnamed male resident of Kawasaki.

    The man has a reported track record of organizing rallies threatening to kill “cockroach” Koreans and demanding that they be kicked out of the country.

    He is the reputed organizer of rallies, some of which happened within a 500-meter radius of the group, named Seikyusha, and reportedly planned another this weekend. The court decision outlaws the holding of such rallies within a 500-meter radius of the group.

    His past remarks are “clearly illegal” and “beyond freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution,” presiding Judge Hidechika Hashimoto said in a ruling.

    Such behavior is illegal because it “infringes on one’s personal rights to live peacefully,” the ruling said.

    The man was unavailable for comment on Friday, but the group in question expressed delight at the decision.

    “We are very happy that children in the area will no longer be exposed to hate speech,” said Choi Kang-ija, a 42-year-old third-generation Korean resident of Kawasaki who works for Seikyusha.

    Seikyusha filed for the injunction three days after the anti-hate speech law was enacted, said Tomohito Miura, the group’s secretary-general.

    The legislation spells out for the first time what kind of language constitutes hate speech. This was critical in the court’s determination that the man’s activities constitute a tort, which is prohibited by law, according to Akira Maeda, a law professor of Tokyo Zokei University.

    “Previously, there was no definition of hate speech, meaning the court had no legal criteria to refer to in deciding whether certain language infringes on a person’s rights,” Maeda said.

    The brainchild of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, the law calls hate speech “unforgivable,” defining it as threats to the bodies, lives and freedom of the non-Japanese, incendiary language aimed at their exclusion, and egregious insults.

    The legislation faced criticism from some quarters because of its failure to actually outlaw hate speech and to penalize those responsible.

    The Yokohama injunction, meanwhile, is reminiscent of a landmark ruling handed down by the Kyoto District Court in 2013 that obliged the far-rightist group Zaitokukai to pay damages on the grounds that vitriolic rallies it organized in front of a local Korean school violated the nation’s law banning tort.

    The successful application of the tort law to hate speech is extremely rare, because in principle it only takes effect when specific individuals or organizations are targeted. Most hate rallies, as opposed to the Kyoto demonstrations, are directed at anyone within earshot — which usually includes Koreans.

    The Yokohama court injunction shows that the anti-hate speech law has paved the way for a “more flexible interpretation” of the tort law, said lawyer Yasuko Morooka.

    “The hate speech legislation, which calls discriminatory language ‘unforgivable’ regardless of whether it targets a specific audience, made it easier for the court to determine that what residents in that area have faced amounts to tort,” Morooka said.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Good news!
    Now are they going to go after the Kawasaki politician who said that gaijin were like stray dogs?

  • “a progressive macro level, but a nasty, xenophobic micro level seemingly in defiance of their own local governmentwith signs like :Gaijin ha fuka”

    Thats probably due to low income/education Japanese living with the same type of immigrant and zainichi foreigner. Some of the low income Japanese find their voice and status by looking down on the next caste.

    What Id like to see is a law that prohibits any form of discrimination towards prospective employees, be that gajin or Japanese, with teeth in the law. To say one thing, but then do nothing is absolutely worthless and frustrating. Discrimination based on age, gender, nationality, race, family members, is widely and openly practiced. The people, both Japanese and Foreigners, who have suffered under this oppressive condition, deserve better because their lives are crushed by it.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Tim2 #8

    ““a progressive macro level, but a nasty, xenophobic micro level seemingly in defiance of their own local governmentwith signs like :Gaijin ha fuka””

    I would say that this is the ‘natural’ outcome when the nation is led by right-wing fascist era Japan throwbacks who cover all their eras with nationalism for the benefit of the domestic audience, whilst at the same time desperately courting the approval of the international community because of the huge insecurity chip on their collective shoulders.

    Wouldn’t you?

  • Jim di Griz says:

    So, I amongst others have expressed a lack of faith in how these ‘anti-hate speech laws without penalties’ will be implemented.

    Here’s how;
    Whereas before this legislation, a person who screamed at someone else, say, something like ‘I’m going to strangle you slowly to death’ (for example) could be charged with making threats, and convicted facing a fine and prison time.

    A Japanese guy who makes exactly such a threat against a Japan-born Korean lady is now merely ‘told not to do it again’ (threaten to murder her, that is!) because it is ‘hate-speech’ and the reprimand is the strongest possible punishment.

    So, it seems that anti-hate speech law is being used to give Japanese racists who make death-threats a proper ‘telling off’ instead of charging them with making death threats and punishing them.

    A law that is supposed to protect minorities is instead used to protect racists from punishment.


    — Problem is, those death threats weren’t really punished either.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Dr. Debito #11

    Exactly my point, the death threats aren’t being pursued for conviction since he has been charged of the ‘lesser crime’ (in terms of punishment) of hate-speech.

    Japan’s hate speech laws; making it a non-punishable offense for a Japanese to threaten to kill a foreigner.

    Nice ‘rule of law’ they got here.

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