Reminder: Protest against new IC Gaijin Cards May 24 Shinbashi Tokyo


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Amnesty International Tokyo English Network
By Chris Pitts
Subject: [AITEN] Rally against increased surveillance of NJ this Sunday May 24th
Date: May 18, 2009 3:16:47 PM JST

We have a special reason to send this special mailing about Sunday’s
action against the legal amendments currently proposed – the reason is
that they will affect YOU.
As the details become clearer, more and more people, both Japanese and
non-Japanese, are voicing opposition and organizing against the
proposals. We have a rare chance to influence government policy in the
few weeks ahead. Please support us:
• Pass this on to others in the next few days;
• Attend the assembly and rally this Sunday;
• If you can’t attend, find out about the proposed changes and alert
your friends and colleagues;
• The Japan Times tomorrow, Tuesday 19th, (Wednesday 20th in the
provinces) will carry a Zeit Gist article on the New IC “Gaijin Cards”
by Arudou Debito:

My article will be on the proposed legislation to make things more
“convenient” and “protected” for NJ residents: New Zairyuu Kaado with
biometric data stored on IC Chips.
Convenient? Yeah, for the police, not NJ. I make the case that, if
the legislation is passed, policing and punishments will only get
stricter, and the chipped cards will act as “bugs” encouraging further
police checkpoints and racial profiling…
• Read it!

• See you at Shimbashi on Sunday!

Rally Against Reforms to the Immigration Law

The “NGO Committee against the Introduction of the ‘Zai-ryu’ Residence
Card” calls on people living in Japan, both citizens and foreign
residents, to join together to oppose discriminatory reforms to
immigration law.

Date: May 24 (Sun) 14:00-15:30 Assembly
16:00-17:00 Rally

Location: Koutsu Biru in Shimbashi (Minato-ku, Shimbashi 5-15-5)
(6 minutes walk from JR Shimbashi Station, Karasumori Exit)
For leaflet and map:

Interpreters: English, Spanish

The assembly will include an overview of the proposed reforms to the
Immigration Law, and speeches by the affected parties. Participants
are encouraged to bring their own banners and signs to carry in the

A new registration card with IC chip will replace the current foreign
resident registration card.
Some people are saying that the proposed new “gaijin card” system is
just the same as the old system, but administered centrally. If only
it was that simple…

Under the new system, the Immigration Bureau will collect and control
personal information on foreign residents. A new foreign resident
registration card with an IC chip will be issued to replace the
current registration card.
The new registration card must be carried at all times…anyone not
carrying their card can be detained.
The new registration card must be up-to-date…if it isn’t you can be
fined up to 200,000 yen, and in some cases have your visa revoked!
The kind of IC chip to be used on the card can be read remotely –
meaning police can scan a crowd or line of people and snatch those
apparently not carrying one. This kind of IC chip is also readable by
criminals – making you more likely to be a victim of identity theft.
Documented foreigners will be subject to heightened surveillance,
while undocumented foreign residents will “disappear” from the record
and be excluded from social services entirely.

Find out how the proposals will affect you. Join the campaign to
oppose surveillance of foreign residents. AITEN says: Integrate, don’t

** PLEASE CHECK the following links to the leaflet in several
– Japanese
– Japanese with Furigana
– English
– Spanish/Espanol
– Portuguese
– Chinese

Organized by:
Executive Committee for the May 24 Assembly Against Immigration Law
Reform (Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan,
Network for Human Rights Legislation for Foreigners)

Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan,
Tel: 03-5802-6033 E-mail:
Research Action Institute for Koreans in Japan (RAIK)


17 comments on “Reminder: Protest against new IC Gaijin Cards May 24 Shinbashi Tokyo

  • Please remember the importance of letting the Japanese voter know how this will affect them.

    This law means police will start to regularly carry RFID readers, and in some cases remote RFID readers.
    Many Japanese carry RFID chips in train passes, POS debit-swipe cards, in cell phones etc.
    The temptation to use this new tool to also remote read Japanese citizens will be too strong to resist for some police, and too strong to resist for the bureaucrats who make the rules. It may even lead to some obscure anti-terrorism regulation (or might already be on the books!) allowing police to scan ANYONE including Japanese, AND get relevant passwords and information from the train companies, banks, cell phone companies, etc. to unlock personal data in the name of “anti-terrorism”

    The dangers for Japanese people who think this doesn’t affect them:

    1. If you carry any kind of swipe card, police will now have to tools to scan YOU. If they can also get the software/passwords, it’s basically a guarantee. They can use the excuse that they are merely “Confirming you are not an illegal alien.” (by reading your name, job, address, etc.) And if the tools are there, it’s guaranteed the tools will be abused.
    2. If you don’t look 100% “Japanese”, if you associate with foreign people, if you speak a foreign language in public, or just wear “strange” clothes, you might be stopped by police because you “look foreign” but are not emitting a new gaijin RFID card signal. Missing a train? Being late for work? Not fun.
    3. Stalking becomes much easier, a policeman who wants more info on a pretty girl could just scan her train pass.
    4. Government purchases of large amounts of RFID readers for police just means a higher chance that more of this tech will fall into the hands of organized crime and petty criminals for use against average Japanese.
    5. Increasing government power over foreigners is an easy first step which can lead to increasing government power over citizens.

  • I hate to keep arguing about this, but the discussion seems to make less sense as people get more worked up. If the police wanted to spy on natives to that extent, they would be doing it already through all the identity-linked RFID cards which already exist (driver’s licenses, Suica commuter passes, debit cards).

    Keep in mind that Japanese people can get surprisingly activist (even militant) when they feel their rights are being threatened. I work next to Kasumigaseki and see large protests over one issue or another practically every day. Human rights are a major buzzword these days, and although us foreigners don’t get much benefit from the government’s interpretation of “human rights,” the government is MUCH more careful when dealing with its own citizens. Just look at all the privacy laws that have come up in the last few years. If the police start getting that out of control in their acts toward Japanese citizens, there will be outcry, and the Diet and prefectural public safety boards will be forced to muzzle the police.

    Just look at how crazy people got when photos of their laundry were uploaded to Google Maps.

    — Er, so people should protest, so they policymakers will be much more careful about dealing with people they’re making policy about? Or they shouldn’t protest, because the means of having their privacy violated are already in (optional) widespread technology (that is not backed up by criminal law, moreover is projected to have stricter policing, probably more thorough targeting, and very possibly more strict complete loss of permission to live in this society and… oops, I’m getting worked up again).

    So, er, it pays to get worked up. Actually no, it doesn’t. Which Joe should we answer? I’m not sure he understands how “outcry” works in societies and social movements.

  • Debito, I will repeat my last comment in clearer terms:

    * Japanese people already carry these tags. I have six in my wallet right now. None of them are required by law (though one is required by my employer).
    * If long-range scanning technology existed, the police could use it to track people right now; zairyu cards would not help the police in that regard.
    * The police probably wouldn’t do this even if they could, because the public outcry would be immense. Japan is a very private society, both legally and culturally.

    Nowhere did I say that people shouldn’t protest. I would protest the zairyu cards if I thought they were a privacy problem. I don’t see them as a privacy problem.

    In fact, the zairyu cards will arguably make our registered information more private. Instead of it being printed on the card for any random pickpocket to photocopy, it will be encrypted and hidden inside the card where only the authorities and really motivated hackers can read it.

    — Oh, so that’s okay then. Nonmotivated hackers need not apply.

    It also will not be hidden. Just more easily reproduceable. The information that is encrypted within will also be plainly visible on the cover of the card. According to the Immigration officials I talked to. Identity thieves without photocopiers need not apply.

    You don’t think this is worth all getting worked up about, Joe. We gotcha. Any new points to raise? Either go to the protest or don’t.

  • Yeah, I have one new point.

    There is much less personal information on the card. Take a look at the sample provided in those brochures. No address. No employer/school. No passport number. Doesn’t say which city or state you’re from. Doesn’t say whether you’re the head of household.

    If that personal information is not on the card, then it is also not in the card, as you just noted. So you have much more privacy. The only information a hypothetical “skimmer” can collect is your name, age, nationality, visa status and period of stay. Not that useful unless you’re trying to track down overstayers or illegal workers.

  • I’ll just restate my central thesis so it looks less rant-ish (I admit I was just throwing out as much as I could think of in my post above)

    As a result of this policy, Japanese police would be far more likely to carry handheld readers and perhaps long-distance readers (or the much more likely development of short-range readers, say 3 meters, enough that the cop, or plainclothes cop, never has to alert you that he is scanning your RFID chips). They would NEED the readers to do thier jobs.

    The proliferation of RFID readers amongst police, the inevitable deployment of distance readers, and the chance that some obscure regulation will permit police to access private data in the name of “counter-terror” or “anti-gang” activity – means that Japanese people should not welcome this mandatory RFID tagging and thus all it leads to. The chance for individual cases of abuse, or worse, the chance for government-approved violation of privacy, only increases through this proposed system.

    Japanese people already carry many RFID cards, yes.
    Criminals are finding out ways to hack them as we speak, yes.
    It is a separate issue already affecting society.
    It doesn’t have much to do with this proposed gaijin-tagging, except in that Japanese people can choose NOT to carry RFID tags and avoid RFID fishing, while gaijin cannot. And gaijin who choose to insulate their wallets against RFID fishing will risk being questioned by police, whereas Japanese will not.

    I wonder how many J cops will interpret this new law as meaning gaijin aren’t “allowed” to insulate their cards against scanning? (Or worse, would that actually be a part of the law?) It doesn’t realy matter what the law actually is, if a racist cop thinks you insulating your wallet is “suspicious”, he can make your life miserable.

  • Wow, even my summaries are long. Let’s make it simple.

    Gaijin are an easy target to set up this surveilance system with little objection.
    This law would strengthen the surveillance capabilities of the police.
    So, it also increases the risk of abuse and “mission creep” – extension beyond the initial stated targets.

    The Japanese bureaucracy, justice system, and police do not have a stellar record of policing themselves, openness, admitting mistakes, or righting wrongs. Giving them more power is a bad idea.

    My question is why can’t they just incorporate a bar code or 2-D data matrix code into the cards (just like my drivers license from the States)?
    Such printed codes can’t be covertly scanned or tracked, yet could provide the same basic data. Perhaps they are assuming that RFID chips are a lot harder to forge than a printed code, but if bar codes are all linked with a central database, then forgeries can’t work without someone on the inside faking data files.

    I don’t see how anyone could object to teh concept of bar codes on ID cards instead of RFID tags. It’s basically no different than the cards we already have, and no added chance of remote tracking by cops OR crooks.
    But this leads to the other objections to the new system, such as the type of info noted (or not) on the cards, the stricter penalties, etc. In a way, the RFID chipping is a convenient debating point that can get even ordinary Japanese to object to these new cards, who probably wouldn’t care otherwise.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Joe, you say:

    If that personal information is not on the card, then it is also not in the card, as you just noted.

    How do we know what’s in the card? Will there be a byte-by-byte explanation of how to understand the information in the cards, like there is for driver’s licenses?

    While I agree with the people who insist that some people are worrying too much and that there probably won’t be readers on every street corner, these cards still represent a goldmine of information for criminals and police.

    This protest had better work, because if the law passes, not too many foreigners will dare attend such gatherings in the future. A public event like this one is one place where cops will be scanning the pockets of attendees. And you’d better believe they’ll be keeping records of the protest-attending habits of the people whose signals they pick up.

  • I will attend to the demo, but to be honest I never really understood such indignation about IC cards/passports and privacy. In this particular case, isn’t it already the case that we have to carry the card all the time?
    Anyway, if it’s the RFID bit that bothers you, just toast it in the microwave for a few seconds and oops, my card doesn’t work any more. If we all did that, the authorities would have to throw their readers away and fall back to regular card-checking.

    Alternatively, you can buy a RFID-blocking wallet. Or make your own:

    — Lots of “if”s here. And the presence of policing now doesn’t justify or excuse even tighter policing in the future…

    Please do attend the demo.

  • Well, it’s the same amount of “if”s as in the sentence “If we all attended the demo”. I was only suggesting one way to protest if the law does go through.
    I will be there for sure, it will be my first demo in Japan. Debito are you coming by the way? Would be nice to shake your hand.

    Oh, and this is a RFID-blocking wallet retailer, with video demonstration. They also do a passport case.

    — Thanks Pooh. Sorry, up here in Hokkaido. Wish I could attend the demo and yes, shake your hand (I am intrigued to see anyone who uses “Pooh” as their moniker). I’ve done as much as I can to promote it, anyway. Thanks for the information about RFID reader blockers.

  • I don’t see how anyone could object to teh concept of bar codes on ID cards instead of RFID tags. It’s basically no different than the cards we already have, and no added chance of remote tracking by cops OR crooks.

    RFID tags are very different from barcodes or magnetic cards. Barcodes or magnetic cards do not use any cryptography, or maybe very basic and thusly weak one. If by any chance your card is read, your privacy is gone. You can conduct a little experiment. Put out your health insurance card and your barcode-reading keitai. Scan the barcode on the card. Here you go, all your information in plain text. And yes, they can be remotely scanned, with much more ease than RFID tags–all you need is a camera with good telescopic lens.

    RFID, on the other hand, allows to implement much more sophisticated encrypting algorithms, such as public-key cryptography. While barcodes and magnetic cards are only a medium (meaning that if you have access to it, you can read it) RFID chip is basically a computer, which means it can decide for itself whether to transmit the data requested or not. It is not as easy as getting a RFID reader and going around scanning everybody, as many here seem to think.

    Yes, there is still a possibility, that criminals may get their hands on police RFID reader. But if a card will contain only an identification number, and cops will be supposed to look it up in some central database, it will pose a much greater security risk.

    Yes, RFID technology has its issues, yes, it need to be discussed, yes, we need advanced cryptography to be implemented in RFID chips, but current debate around RFID is at scaremongering level.

    — I was afraid this would happen. When talk gets down to the level of technology that is as yet unrealized in future application, the debate becomes one between those who know something about the technology (who often get blinded to the possible ethical issues) and those who don’t trust it (who then get accused of wearing tinfoil hats).

    Look, the debate is about whether you want a surveillance society, one that already exists (again, for a segment of the population, not everyone — if that even matters) and is about to get a lot worse.

    Don’t be blinded by the potential sins of science. The point is that extra policing is not only unwarranted, it’s in my view dangerous for everyone both in application and in potential abuse.

    Believe it or don’t. But please don’t try to excuse it by what is quickly devolving into technobabble.

  • The slippery slope argument will mean nothing to most Japanese people, most will approve of tighter controls on gaijin and will see no relation with their own civil liberties.

    Ask yourself, if one of your friends got busted for some offense and was hauled off to the detention center prior to being deported would you go and visit them ? When you do you have to give all your details. Think it over, it will clarify your position on the issue of “privacy”.

  • i think it should be e-mailed to all the foreign residents in Japan by getting them from respective embassies.

  • Long time reader, first time poster.

    have to say David, why are you picking on people who post,as you call it ‘technobabble’, when in your original post at the top of this pge you quoted:

    “The kind of IC chip to be used on the card can be read remotely –
    meaning police can scan a crowd or line of people and snatch those
    apparently not carrying one. This kind of IC chip is also readable by
    criminals – making you more likely to be a victim of identity theft.”

    Talk about scare mongering people – you do realise that most bank cards have IC chips on them – they can’t be read.

    I for one have nothing to hide about my life, and if it means the illegal immigrants, the ones that skim off Japanese society are caught then deported out, fine, that is their fault. And also, after speaking to some Japanese immigration officials about this, and having heard that the visa revoking status is for criminals, I have no worries. What do you have to worry about?

  • That’s just the thing, Rob: civil liberties. Japanese people should be fighting for them. Have you paid attention to the multiple mentions people have made about police possibly abusing these IC cards? People with power have a tendency to abuse it, if patterns of human behavior tell us anything. Whether you have something to hide shouldn’t matter. The police should have a reason to scan you for your information. Scanning without reason is a violation of privacy. Scanning without reason and then deciding to police someone because he or she is possibly a transgressive foreigner is plain wrong. All kinds of pretexts to possible abuse of power can be drawn from the information gathered in this type of casual surveillance of people.

    Do you believe this will lead to the increased prosecution of illegals and nabbing of criminals? It could very likely just lead to increased surveillance and subsequent harrassment of foreigners and citizens in general while doing nothing to decrease the numbers of those illegals “skimming” off Japanese society. I don’t imagine all the illegals are gonna run out to get IC cards from their local prefectural office.

  • Rob,

    The problem with Japanese laws is that they never make themselves clear enough so that the ones deciding what’s going to happen to you are not the lawmakers but the cops, the judges, and now the jurors. This makes it easy to derive interpretations of dubious constitutionality from mostly constitutional laws.

    Thousands of Gaijins will be caught and released without Alien Cards on a daily basis, no need to worry, it will be just like now. I once found myself without identification in Japan and the people at the Police station tried to help me instead of preemptively holding me up as a possible overstayer or illegal immigrant until the embassy could confirm my story as they could have.

    However, if they happen to meet a cop that doesn’t quite like Aliens, the cop has the law on his side to revoke their residence status because of “exceptional circumstances”.

  • Debito, I can see what the debate is about. I do not want a surveillance society, either (and as you may have noticed, I don’t challenge your other arguments about Zairyuu Cards).

    But I prefer to be concerned about something (let alone raise concerns) where there are sufficient grounds for a concern. There are grounds for concerns about unfair fines or racist cops. There are unsufficient grounds for the concern about RFID-tracking Big Brother, and that’s what I am trying to explain. And I prefer “technobabble”, as you put it, over scaremongering. At least you have do have some knowledge about the technology in question to do tech talks. Scaremongering is much easier.

    — Point taken.

  • SSJSubgeta says:

    I think this is totally unnecessary due to a couple of reasons.
    1. Government funding, due to the world economy and its current status. I highly doubt they will implement these card readers to all the kōban’s in Japan. Plus how often will these be used.

    which brings to point

    2. This will only enforce Police officials to profile non-Japanese residents/citizens. This will breach a lot of migratory rules and relations with other country’s. (E.g. Traveling tourist, what will happen to them? How will they be treated if they are visiting friends, family and are not in tourist areas.)

    3. Hackers and Hacking systems.
    You be surprised how many wifi internet spots are around neighborhoods that are not secure nor encrypted. Easily accessible to obtain information. There are even encryption programs that decrypt pass words to gain access. This will put the Japanese immigration database in jeopardy if a hacker can penetrate that database. Also small time crooks falsification documents and stealing Japanese/non-Japanese identities(ID theft). Japanese people already have enough trouble dealing with swindlers and scams as well. They don’t need this on top to create more trouble.

    This law/bill or whatever they are trying to pass is not a justified bill. Its more of a person who is in power who has something personal against foreigners in Japan.

    No immigration system is perfect, we can just work on improving them. Same with people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>