Japan’s Supreme Court rules Japan’s marriage requirement for Japanese nationality unconstitutional

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Hi Blog.  I think this will be the best news we’ll hear all year:

Thanks to the vagaries (and there are lots of them) of Japan’s koseki Family Registry system, if a child is born out of wedlock to a Japanese man and a NJ woman, and the father’s parentage is not acknowledged BEFORE birth, Japanese citizenship up to now has NOT been conferred.  Japanese citizenship is still NOT conferred EVEN IF the J man acknowledges parentage AFTER birth.  

(If the situation was reversed i.e. J mother-NJ father, it doesn’t matter–obviously the mother and child share Japanese blood, therefore Japanese citizenship is conferred.  Of course, the NJ father has no custody rights, but that’s a separate issue…  More in HANDBOOK pp 270-2.)

But as NHK reported tonight, that leaves tens of thousands of J children with J blood (the main requirement for Japanese citizenship) either without Japanese citizenship, or completely *STATELESS* (yes, that means they can never leave the country–they can’t get a passport!).  It’s inhumane and insane.

But the Japanese Supreme Court finally recognized that, and ruled this situation unconstitutional–conferring citizenship to ten international children plaintiffs.  Congratulations!

News photo

Photo by Kyodo News

(NHK 7PM also reported last night that three Supreme Court judges wrote dissents to the ruling, some claiming that the Diet should pass a law on this, not have the judiciary legislate from the bench.  Yeah, sure, wait for enough of the indifferent LDP dullards in the Diet to finally come round, sounds like a plan; not.)

Read on.  I’ll add more articles to this blog entry as they come online with more detail.  One more step in the right direction for Japan’s internationalizing and multiculturalizing society!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional

TOKYO, June 4, 2008 KYODO

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9133QJG2&show_article=1

     The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law article requiring parents to be married in order for their children to receive Japanese nationality, ruling in favor of 10 Japanese-Filipino children.

     The top court’s grand bench made the landmark decision in two separate cases, filed in 2003 by one such child and in 2005 by a group of nine who were born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and Filipino mothers and who obtained recognition of the paternity of their fathers after birth.

     After the ruling, the children — boys and girls aged 8 to 14 years who live in areas in eastern and central Japan — and their mothers celebrated in the courtroom by exchanging hugs, with some bursting into tears.

     One of the children, Jeisa Antiquiera, 11, told a press conference after the ruling, ”I want to travel to Hawaii with on Japanese passport.”

     One mother, Rossana Tapiru, 43, said, ”I am so happy that we could prove that society can be changed,” while another said, ”It was truly a long and painful battle.”

     Hironori Kondo, lawyer in one of the two cases, said it is the eighth top court ruling that has found a law unconstitutional in the postwar period and that ”it will have a significant bearing on the situation facing foreign nationals in Japan.”

     Yasuhiro Okuda, law professor at Chuo University who has submitted an opinion on the case to the Supreme Court, said that in the past 20 years tens of thousands of children are estimated to have been born out of wedlock to foreign mothers, citing data by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

     A majority of the 15 justices including Presiding Justice Niro Shimada on the grand bench ruled the Nationality Law clause goes against the Constitution.

     The justices said in a statement, ”there might have been compelling reasons that the parents’ marriages signify their child’s close ties with Japan at the time of the provision’s establishment in 1984.”

     ”But it cannot be said that the idea necessarily matches current family lifestyles and structures, which have become diversified,” they said.

     In light of the fact that obtaining nationality is essential in order for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan, ”the disadvantage created by such discriminatory treatment cannot easily be overlooked,” the justices stated in the document.

     Without nationality, these children face the threat of forced displacement in some cases and are not granted rights to vote when they reach adulthood, according to lawyer Genichi Yamaguchi, who represented the other case.

     Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a press conference following the ruling, ”I believe the government needs to take the verdict seriously, and we will discuss what steps should be taken after examining the ruling carefully.”

     Three justices countered the majority argument, saying it is not reasonable to take into consideration the recent trend in Western countries that have enacted laws authorizing nationality for children outside marriages, on the grounds that the countries’ social situations differ from that in Japan.

     In both of the cases, the Tokyo District Court in its April 2005 and March 2006 rulings granted the children’s claims, determining that the differentiation set by the parents’ marital status is unreasonable and that the Nationality Law’s Article 3 infringes Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality for all.

     Overturning the decisions, however, the Tokyo High Court in February 2006 and February 2007 refused to pronounce on any constitutional decisions, saying it is the duty of the state to decide who is eligible for nationality, not the courts.

     Under Japan’s Nationality Law that determines citizenship based on bloodline, a child born in wedlock to a foreign mother and Japanese father is automatically granted Japanese nationality.

     A child born outside a marriage, however, can only obtain nationality if the father admits paternity while the child is in the mother’s womb. If the father recognizes the child as his only after the child’s birth, the child is unable to receive citizenship unless the parents get married.

     In short, the parents’ marital status determines whether the child with after-birth paternal recognition can obtain nationality.

     Children born to Japanese mothers are automatically granted Japanese nationality, irrespective of the nationality of the father and whether they are married.

==Kyodo  ENDS

JAPAN TIMES EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL

June 6, 2008
Giving children their due

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20080606a2.html

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law clause that denies Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock to a foreign woman and Japanese man even if the man recognizes his paternity following the birth.

It thus granted Japanese nationality to 10 children who were born out of wedlock to Filipino women and Japanese men. The ruling deserves praise for clearly stating that the clause violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law. The government should immediately revise the law.

The 12-3 grand bench decision concerned two lawsuits filed by the 10 children aged 8 to 14, all living in Japan. The Tokyo District Court, in two rulings, had found the clause unconstitutional, thus granting Japanese nationality to the children. But the Tokyo High Court had overturned the rulings without addressing the issue of constitutionality.

Under the Nationality Law, a child born to a foreign woman married to a Japanese man automatically becomes a Japanese national. Japanese nationality is also granted to a child of an unmarried foreign woman and Japanese man if the man recognizes his paternity before the child is born. If paternal recognition comes after a child’s birth, however, the child is not eligible for Japanese nationality unless the couple marries.

The law lays emphasis on both bloodline and marriage because they supposedly represent the “close connection” of couples and their children with Japan.

The Supreme Court, however, not only pointed out that some foreign countries are scrapping such discriminatory treatment of children born out of wedlock but also paid attention to social changes. It said that in view of changes in people’s attitude toward, and the diversification of, family life and parent-child relationships, regarding marriage as a sign of the close connection with Japan does not agree with today’s reality.

The ruling is just and reasonable because children who were born and raised in Japan but do not have Japanese nationality are very likely to face disadvantages in Japanese society.

The Japan Times: Friday, June 6, 2008
ENDS

15 comments on “Japan’s Supreme Court rules Japan’s marriage requirement for Japanese nationality unconstitutional

  • Bravo to japan but its 30 years too late for alot of kids that had to suffer from this insane law. finally japan does something right for a change. i guess better late then never, and can you believe that they had to fight this all the way to the supreme court, priceless one of those only can happen in japan moments..

    Reply
  • So what about the thousands of other children in the same situation? Since the court case only applied to these ten, does a law have to be passed for the thousands of others or is it to late for them?

    –No, it’s not too late for them, as long as they’re not born before 1985–when the new nationality laws took effect allowing nationality to pass through the J mother (before that, it was only through the J father). Those unfortunate relics of a more discriminatory time cannot be grandfathered in, I bet.

    However, I don’t know how this new SC decision will be enforced. I’m hoping this sort of scene doesn’t happen: Japanese child without citizenship goes to ward office to register as citizen, tetchy bureaucrat says, “Those ten children got a court order–you’ll need one too, so sue for it or else we can’t grant you citizenship.”

    Sounds terribly unreasonable. But we have now more than three court precedents saying that “Japanese Only” signs are quasi-illegal (citing international treaty and Japanese civil law, as well as social convention). But you’re not going to get the police (another form of bureaucrat) to force the management to take the signs down. A court decision is not a law, and without it, a bureaucrat is still within his mandate to say, “Show me the law that expressly grants you citizenship and we will do so.” The JO signs, likewise, have stayed up. You must sue each individual business to get them down.

    However, in a different decision in 2005 saying that local prefectures must grant suffrage to overseas absentee voters (and penalizing them for not establishing a system), this has worked to establish, AFAIK, universal suffrage for Japanese overseas by now. (I’ll have a Japan Times FYI column up on this in a few days. Here’s the link to it if you want to read it now.) So a Supreme Court decision can force the hand of bureaucrats sometimes, sometimes not. Let’s hope it does for these children. Debito

    Reply
  • This is a link to the Supreme Court judgment.
    http://www.courts.go.jp/hanrei/pdf/20080604174246.pdf

    On page 12, there is a passage underlined by the court itself.
    “日本国民である父と日本国民でない母との間に出生し,父から出生後に認知された子は,父母の婚姻により嫡出子たる身分を取得したという部分を除いた国籍法3条1項所定の要件が満たされるときは,同項に基づいて日本国籍を取得することが認められるというべきである。”
    “A child who is born between a father that is a Japanese national and a mother that is not a Japanese national and who is recognized as his child by the father after birth shall be granted conferment of Japanese nationality per article 3 paragraph 1 of Nationality Law, provided all the conditions of the paragraph except the condition that the child acquired the status of a child in wedlock due to the marriage of the father and the mother are satisfied.”

    I think (or hope) the ruling promptly applies to everyone concerned.

    Reply
  • The ruling is at http://www.courts.go.jp/hanrei/pdf/20080604174246.pdf (in Japanese, natch). Key operative language:

    日本国民である父と日本国民でない母との間に出生し,父から出生後に認知された子は,父母の婚姻により嫡出子たる身分を取得したという部分を除いた国籍法3条1項所定の要件が満たされるときは,同項に基づいて日本国籍を取得することが認められるというべきである。

    In terms of enforceability, if an official refuses to grant a child citizenship, the family should have recourse for administrative review, or to petition the family court. I would think it highly unlikely that a lower court or review board would contradict the Supreme Court on something like this…

    But from the sound of it, the government is willing to conform the statute to the Supreme Court’s interpretation, which is good news since it would make everything much easier to argue.

    Reply
  • Excellent news.
    I’ve seen it many newspapers all morning.
    The morning edition of the 日経新聞 had a pretty good cover story article.

    Here are a few online links:

    「国籍法は違憲」婚外子10人に日本国籍 最高裁判決」
    http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0604/TKY200806040187.html

    「国籍法の規定は「違憲」 最高裁判決、婚外子に日本国籍認定」
    http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/shakai/20080605AT1G0403C04062008.html

    「官房長官「重い判決だ」 国籍法改正も示唆」
    http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/0604/TKY200806040268.html

    「法相、国籍法改正検討を表明」
    http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/seiji/20080605AT3S0500D05062008.html

    「違憲判決受け「国籍法」改正へ、鳩山法相が参院委で言明」
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/news/20080605-OYT1T00370.htm

    I am concerned exactly how the Citizenship Law will be revised. I do not have much faith in Hatoyama…

    (As with most online articles, grab them fast if you are interested; all too often they either move or are removed over time.)

    =======================
    「国籍法は違憲」婚外子10人に日本国籍 最高裁判決
    2008年06月04日20時57分
    http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0604/TKY200806040187.html

     結婚していない日本人の父とフィリピン人の母から生まれた子ども10人(8〜14歳)が、日本国籍の確認を国に求めた訴訟で、最高裁大法廷(裁判長・島田仁郎(にろう)長官)は4日、10人全員に日本国籍を認めた。生まれた後に父から認知されても、両親が結婚していないことを理由に日本国籍を認めない現在の国籍法は、憲法14条の「法の下の平等」に反すると判断した。  

     結婚しているかによる区別が違憲とされたのは初めて。同じ国籍問題を抱える子どもについて正確な統計はないが、国内だけで数万人という推計があり、海外にも相当数いるとみられる。法務省は国籍法の改正を迫られる。

     また、最高裁が法律を違憲と判断した判決は、05年に海外に住む日本人に選挙権を認めない公職選挙法を違憲として以来で、戦後8件目。

     国籍法の2条1号によれば、父母が結婚していない「婚外子」でも、生まれる前の段階で父の認知があれば、国籍を取得できる。一方、国籍法3条1項は、生まれた後に認知された場合に父母が結婚しなければ国籍を得られないと定めた。その違いは、出生した時点で子どもの国籍を確定させるのが大原則だという考え方による。

     この国籍法を違憲と判断したのは、15人の裁判官のうち12人。うち9人が多数意見で「84年の立法当時は結婚によって日本との結びつきを区別することに理由があったが、その後に国内的、国際的な社会環境の変化があった」と指摘。その例として、家族生活や親子関係の意識の変化や実態の多様化、認知だけで国籍を認める諸外国の法改正を挙げた。

     遅くとも、原告たちが国籍取得を法務局に届け出た03〜05年には、結婚を要件に国籍を区別するのは不合理な差別になっていたと認定。3条1項のうち結婚の要件だけを無効にして、要件を満たせば国籍を認めると結論づけた。

     一方、同じ違憲でも3人の裁判官は理由が異なり、本来は国会が立法で解決するべきだったのに怠った「立法の不作為」を違憲とする立場を採った。3人のうち1人は「現行法の拡張解釈で違憲状態を解消できる」として子どもに国籍を認めたが、他の2人は「違憲状態を是正するには、立法によるべきだ」として、国籍を認めなかった。

     このほか、3人の裁判官は「婚外子は両親の結婚と父親の認知により、日本との密接な結びつきをもつ」という法務省の見解を認め、「合憲」とする反対意見を述べた。

     結局、子どもに国籍を認めたのは10人の裁判官。5人は国籍を認めなかった。この判決により、原告の10人の子どもたちは、国籍取得を法務局に届け出た03〜05年の時点で日本国籍を得たことになる。

     一審・東京地裁は違憲と判断したが、二審・東京高裁は憲法判断に踏み込まずに子ども側の逆転敗訴としていた。(岩田清隆)
    ==================================

    国籍法の規定は「違憲」 最高裁判決、婚外子に日本国籍認定
    http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/shakai/20080605AT1G0403C04062008.html
     結婚していないフィリピン人の母と日本人の父の間に生まれ、生後に認知された10人の子が日本国籍の確認を求めた2件の訴訟の上告審判決で、最高裁大法廷(裁判長・島田仁郎長官)は4日、両親の婚姻を国籍取得の要件とする国籍法の規定を違憲と判断し、10人全員の日本国籍を認めた。最高裁が法律の規定に違憲判決を出すのは戦後8件目。最高裁の違憲判断により、国会は国籍法の改正を迫られる。
     判決理由で大法廷は「家族生活や親子関係に関する意識が変化し、実態も多様化したことを考慮すると、原告が国籍取得の届出をした2003年当時には、父母の婚姻を国籍取得要件にしている国籍法の規定は不合理な差別といえ、憲法に違反する」と述べた。(04日 22:25)
    関連記事:

    婚外子が割を食わない社会に――「母の日」「父の日」に思う(2005/5/20)
    http://www.nikkei.co.jp/neteye5/nakamura/20050519na85j000_19.html
     「母の日」「父の日」と親子関係を再確認する行事が続く季節。子供の権利は本来、出生によって左右されないはずだが、法律上の結婚をしていない夫婦から生まれた子供が割を食うしくみが厳然と残るのもまた事実だ。そんな非嫡出子(婚外子)差別を改めようとの動きが少しずつではあるが進んでいる。

    「国籍取得」で一歩前進

     「父母に法律上の婚姻関係がないことを理由に、子供に日本国籍を認めないのは違憲」――。東京地裁でこの4月、内縁関係にあるフィリピン人女性と日本人男性の間に生まれ、出生後、父親に認知された男の子(7歳)からの国籍確認を求める訴えに対し、日本国籍を認める判決があった。

     国籍法では日本人の母を持つ子は生まれながらに日本国籍を得るが、母が外国人、父が日本人で、出生後に認知された場合、両親が法律上の夫婦でないと日本国籍は与えられない。今回、裁判所は、法律婚かどうかだけを問題にする国籍法の規定は、法の下での平等に反するとし、今回のケースは父親が生活費を送るなど「事実婚」の実態があるので子供の日本国籍は認められると判断した。

     もっとも、父子の交流が乏しく、事実婚といえない状況なら日本国籍は認めなくてよいとの論理だとすれば、それもおかしな話だが、まずは一歩前進といえるだろう。結婚制度からはずれた者や、その子供に制裁を加えるかのような仕組みが、この国には多すぎた。

     「すべての子どもは出生によって差別されない」ことをうたった国連の「子どもの権利条約」を日本が批准したのは、もう10年以上も前のことだ。だが現在も民法900条は婚外子の相続分を、両親が法律上の結婚をしている子(婚内子)の2分の1と規定している。

     “正しい”結婚を守るための格差とされるが、今や婚外子は浮気の結果のみならず、意図的に事実婚を選んだ男女からも生まれており、何が正当かは揺らいでいる。子供の権利の平等、婚姻の多様性などを考えると疑問符のつく条文だが、これまでの裁判では格差は合憲とされてきた。

     おかげで更なる別扱いがまかり通ることにもなる。従来、戸籍の続柄欄に、婚内子は「長男」「二女」などと、婚外子は単に「男」「女」と記載されたのも、民法の格差の規定が根拠だった。

     この区分記載を認めた戸籍法もまた、違憲か否かが度々法廷で争われてきたが、昨年3月、東京地裁は憲法判断こそ変えなかったものの、一見して婚外子とわかる表記はプライバシー権の侵害と認めた。これを受けて昨秋から続柄表記は「長女」「二男」方式に統一されている。

      超少数派にも平等の権利を

     生まれて来る子供に占める婚外子の比率が4-5割に上るヨーロッパと違い、日本の婚外子は1.9%の超少数派だ。それ自体、決して悪いことではないが、だからといって、一部の子供たちが自分に責任がないにもかかわらず不利益に甘んじざるを得ないのは理不尽というものだろう。

     この春、野党三党は夫婦別姓の容認などとともに子供の相続格差をなくすことをうたった「民法改正法案」を参院に提出した。7回目の共同提出だという。婚外子が4割を超すフランスでも相続格差が解消したのはやっと数年前のことというから楽観は禁物だが、そろそろ日本も子供の権利にもっと敏感になっていい。

    =======================

    違憲判決受け「国籍法」改正へ、鳩山法相が参院委で言明
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/news/20080605-OYT1T00370.htm

     母が外国人で、日本人の父から生後認知された非嫡出子(婚外子)に国籍を認めない国籍法を違憲とした最高裁判決を受け、鳩山法相は5日午前の参院法務委員会で、「国籍法第3条は改正する方向で検討・対処しなければならない」と述べ、同法改正を言明した。

     千葉景子委員(民主)の質問に答えた。

     法相は「最高裁判決はありとあらゆる意味で衝撃的だった」とした上で、「罪のないお子さんが親の事情で不利益を被る。立場が不明確にならないようにというのは、戸籍と国籍を扱う法務省として、基本精神として持っていなければならない」と強調した。

     法務省は早ければ次期臨時国会に改正案を提出する方針だ。今後、法改正までの間に今回の裁判と同様の事例があれば、国籍取得届け出を預かり、法改正まで結論を留保する。

    (2008年6月5日11時51分 読売新聞)
    ends

    Reply
  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    This is good news for those caught up in this bureaucratic mess. Since the article doesn’t seem to mention it would it be correct to assume that children born to NJ women and fathered by Japanese (but who choose not to acknowledge the fact) will be denied citizenship? I can assume that there may be many children in such a situation. Can there be some sort of DNA testing to prove that the father was Japanese?

    Reply
  • Boogie Gee says:

    Mark Mino-Thompson wrote:

    “Can there be some sort of DNA testing to prove that the father was Japanese?”

    DNA has absolutely nothing to do with being Japanese.
    Japanese, just like other citizenships, is a legal status conferred by the government.

    Our own Debito is Japanese, but I imagine his DNA is quite different from much of Japans populace.

    –That it is.

    Reply
  • “A court decision is not a law, and without it, a bureaucrat is still within his mandate to say, “Show me the law that expressly grants you citizenship and we will do so.””

    Hang on. Under Article 81 of the Constitution Supreme Court rulings on the the unconstitutionality of laws do have legal status. “Bureaucrats” can’t and don’t ignore them. You’ve already cited the case involving overseas voters, and there is also the notorious case on unfair apportionment of seats in the Diet in the 1970s as well as others that stand as examples that were followed to the letter. The Supreme Court never ruled on the Otaru case (somewhat reasonably I would argue, given that the authority of municipal bodies is constitutionally restricted to that which the national government delegates to them), so it really has no relevance here. The other cases you cite weren’t Supreme Court decisions.

    In any case, a good decision all round.

    –Points taken. Thanks for making them.

    Reply
  • this law was nuts to begin with, and why does japan inc. continue to pick and choose who can be citizen and who cant, its seems like there trying to play GOD or something like that..oops i forgot this is japan, at least i hope that now the 10 families can go back to court and SUE the japan inc..government for compensation damages..oops the comfort woman are still waiting since WW2 for there government compensation…DAH..

    Reply
  • Justice minister wants law revised following kids’ citizenship ruling
    (Mainichi Japan) June 5, 2008
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080605p2a00m0na018000c.html

    Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said the Nationality Law should be revised following a top court decision that ruled that foreign women and Japanese men need not be married for their children to obtain Japanese citizenship.

    “Basically, we should look into revising the law,” said Hatoyama at the House of Councillors Committee on Judicial Affairs on Thursday.

    Hatoyama’s remarks came a day after the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a provision in the Nationality Law that makes marriage of foreign women and Japanese men a requirement for their children to obtain Japanese nationality.

    The ruling on Wednesday confirmed citizenship for 10 children who were born out of wedlock between Filipinas and Japanese men.

    Referring to the ruling that suggested in its supporting opinion that such factors as children being born in Japan or living in Japan for a certain period of time could also serve as conditions for obtaining Japanese citizenship, Hatoyama said, “We need to examine whether new conditions to obtain Japanese nationality should be included in the amendment by taking such opinions into consideration.”

    Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has instructed legal affairs bureaus across the nation to accept applications filed by children who are under similar circumstances and who seek to obtain Japanese citizenship, and not to judge whether their requests are acceptable or not.
    ENDS

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  • 国籍法規定違憲:「改正の方向で」…判決受け法相
    http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20080605k0000e040063000c.html

     出生後の国籍取得に両親の婚姻を必要と定めた国籍法の規定を違憲とした4日の最高裁判断について、鳩山邦夫法相は5日の参院法務委員会で「基本的には改正する方向で検討していかなければならない」と述べた。

     改正内容について、鳩山法相は判決の補足意見が「(生まれた子供の)出生地が日本」、「日本に一定期間居住」など婚姻要件以外の要件を例示したことに触れ、「そのような意見も踏まえ、(改正に新たな要件を盛り込むかどうかの)検討が必要だ」と述べた。

     一方、法務省民事局は今回の訴訟の原告と同様の問題を持つ子供から国籍取得の申請があった場合、可否を判断せずに申請書を預かるよう、全国の法務局に指示した。【坂本高志】

    毎日新聞 2008年6月5日 13時26分

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  • >“Can there be some sort of DNA >testing to prove that the father >was Japanese?”
    >
    >DNA has absolutely nothing to do >with being Japanese.

    No, but it has everything to do with a parent child relationship, which I think was Mark’s point.

    Reply

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