DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 27, 2009

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HI All. Before I start this Newsletter, a Newsflash:

Protests are continuing at Diet against passage of IC Chip Gaijin Card measure by Lower House (more below). Help stop it passing the Upper House by attending on July 2 (Thu) 12:00 – 13:00, Upper House Diet members office building. More details at http://www.debito.org/?p=3654 Now on with your regularly-scheduled screed:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 27, 2009
Table of Contents:

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IC CHIP GAIJIN CARDS
1) Japan Times: New Gaijin Cards bill looks set to pass Diet
2) Japan Times: New IC Chip Gaijin Card passes Lower House, expected to pass Upper too
3) Text of proposed amendments to new Immigration Law, including IC Chip Gaijin Cards
Plus NEWS FLASH on upcoming Japan Times articles
4) MMT on Aso Admin’s plans for “secure society”: reforms in five areas. But not immigration.

J MEDIA SPOILS PUBLIC IMAGE OF NJ
5) NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps their guest NJ commentators naive and ignorant
6) Japan Today feature on how media focus on crime negatively impacts upon NJ
7) NPR’s Geoff Nunberg on semantics and their control over public debate

INJUSTICE
8 ) Kyodo: 34 NJ “Trainees” died FY 2008, 16 from suspected overwork, up from 13 FY 2007
9) Anonymous re Scott Tucker, killed in a Tokyo bar by a man who got a suspended sentence.
10) Tangent: Japan Times on crackdowns on students at Hosei University

GOOD NEWS?
11) Bernama.com on new proposed “points system” for NJ work visas
12) Teigaku Kyuufukin: Have you collected your 12,000 yen tax kickback yet?

… and finally… JUST FOR FUN
14) Japanpodshow: Podcast on Arudou Debito by Joseph Tame
15) Sapporo Source DEBITO Column June 2009 on Hokkaido Winters

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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org
http://www.debito.org
Freely forwardable

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IC CHIP GAIJIN CARDS
Here’s how the story developed…

1) Japan Times: New Gaijin Cards bill looks set to pass Diet

Japan Times: The revised bills, expected to be passed Friday by the Lower House, will abolish the Alien Registration Act and revise the immigration control and resident registration laws with sweeping changes that put information on foreign residents completely in the hands of the central government.

According to the draft, authority for managing foreign residents will shift from municipalities to the Immigration Bureau, allowing it to consolidate all personal information collected from foreign residents, including type of visa and expiration date

“We need these bills to be enacted. We need to know how many foreigners there are and where they live. So consolidating information into the Justice Ministry is necessary,” Hosokawa said.

The bills also have a provision to prevent the ministry from using that data improperly, a decision that was made to ward off criticism that “the minister” could abuse the zairyu card number to violate foreigners’ privacy. But no penalty for such abuse was listed.

The practice, dubbed data-matching, was outlawed by the Supreme Court in regard to its use on Japanese citizens.

The provision says “the justice minister” must limit the use of foreign residents’ personal information to the minimum required for managing such residents and that the information must be handled with care to protect the rights of individuals. But no penalties or methods for enforcing such compliance are listed in the bills.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3591

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2) Japan Times: New IC Chip Gaijin Card passes Lower House, expected to pass Upper too

Japan Times: The Lower House passed bills Friday making it easier for the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau to keep tabs on foreigners who have overstayed their visas as well as others residing legally in the country.

The Upper House is also expected to pass the bills, which have the support of both the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc and the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3600

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3) Text of proposed amendments to new Immigration Law, including IC Chip Gaijin Cards

I asked the author of the above Japan Times articles on the passage of the new laws on IC Chip Gaijin Cards et al. to send me his source materials. He very kindly complied. Thanks very much!

These are fifteen pages of very thick and oddly-formatted pages of legal changes. It’s cumbersome wading through it. So rather than wait until I read everything before commenting, I might as well put these up so we can all read them at the same time.

Revisions to the Juumin Kihon Daichou Hou (which governs how people are registered with local governments, as in juuminhou), followed by the interestingly-titled “shutsu nyuu koku kanri oyobi nanmin nintei hou oyobi nihonkoku to no heiwa jouyaku ni motozuki kokuseki o ridatsu shita mono tou no shutsu nyuu koku kanri ni kansuru tokurei hou no ichibu o kaisei suru tou no houritsu an ni taisuru shuusei an” (draft of the revisions for one part of the draft of the laws governing administration of immigration, administration of recognized refugees, and the special law governing administration of immigration of people who have renounced their Japanese citizenship from countries with a peace treaty with Japan).

What a mouthful. I’m wondering what inspired the special-law conceit about having a peace treaty (does this weed out Russians and North Koreans?). Any ideas out there?

http://www.debito.org/?p=3606

NEWS FLASH:

The Japan Times is following the story of the new deluxe Gaijin Cards, complete with IC Chip and more punitive policing of most foreigners. And it is now clear from the articles below that the bills were actually drafted by the Ministry of Justice, meaning it’s all been created in favor of policing, not assimilating, NJ — and under the all-consuming need to keep track of potential “illegal foreign overstayers” by policing everyone (anyone else smell a kind of a witch hunt?).

Got a call from the author of the articles yesterday evening. He notes that there will be a series of articles on this over the next few days (above are the two camps within the LDP and the DPJ, then on successive days an opponent from the left, and then an opponent from the extreme right). So keep reading the Japan Times — the only paper which cares to give you the straight poop, and do some investigative journalism on topics that matter to its NJ readers.

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4) MMT on Aso Admin’s plans for “secure society”: reforms in five areas. But not immigration.

Japan Today: A government expert panel proposed to Prime Minister Taro Aso on Monday that Japan needs to reform five areas centering on employment in order to construct a ”secure” society amid widening social and financial disparities

To realize a secure society, the panel called for reforms in five areasemployment, child rearing, education, medical care and pensions, with employment being the central axis in a coordinated reform of all five areas.

COMMENT: But not immigration. Still taboo. The semi-official taboo now looks pretty official to me.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3598

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J MEDIA SPOILS PUBLIC IMAGE OF NJ
5) NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps their guest NJ commentators naive and ignorant

Discussion about an NHK program called “Cool Japan”, talking about, yep, you guessed it. What gets my goat is that only NJ who have been here LESS than a year are allowed on it to comment and appraise. The subject matter is topical already, but deliberately limiting your debate to newcomers who most likely don’t know their way around yet linguistically or culturally is one way to make sure that nothing really gets discussed. Except more proof to a Japanese audience about how unique and inscrutable Japanese society is to the hapless NJ. All sponsored by Japan’s most trusted television network. Crappy social science.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3633

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6) Japan Today feature on how media focus on crime negatively impacts upon NJ

I talked above how silly programs like NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps NJ looking perpetually neophyte and ignorant, so here’s another feature from Japan Today on how the media keeps NJ looking threatening.

Japan Today: When the media report on violent crime, juvenile delinquency and other social problems, it’s common to see such terms as “kyuzo” (rapidly increasing), “kyoaku-ka” (becoming more vicious) and “teinenrei-ka” (occurring from an earlier age) appearing in headlines.

But such assertions don’t coincide with the statistical data, writes Koichi Hamai, a professor of law at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University in the biweekly magazine Sapio (July 8).

COMMENT: The key quote, from Koichi Hamai, a professor of law at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University: “rates for crimes by non-Japanesemost of which involve violations of the immigration laws or misdemeanorsare “extremely low” relative to the total number of crimes, and there’s nothing to suggest they are increasing.”

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7) NPR’s Geoff Nunberg on semantics and their control over public debate

Pursuant to my Japan Times’ JUST BE CAUSE column earlier this month (June 2, “The issue that dares not speak its name”), where I talked about how the domestic media and GOJ deliberately refrain from couching the debate on racial discrimination in those exact terms “racial discrimination” and how that affects public awareness in Japan of the issue.

Here’s an excerpt of a June 3, 2009 US National Public Radio “Fresh Air” interview with UC Berkeley linguist Geoff Nunberg (June 4 podcast, from minute seven) which explores exactly the same topic, regarding the American media’s treatment of the debate on “torture”

The point is, if we can keep the word “racial discrimination” (as defined under UN treaty) at bay in Japan call it “foreigner discrimination”, “discrimination by physical appearance”, or even “cultural differences” and “misunderstandings” we can keep at bay the moral disapproval that comes with it. We can also keep the plausible deniability in the public arena that something very bad (as opposed to just “bad” or “misunderstood”) is going on, one that requires legislation to prevent it. This sort of thing happens everywhere when people play with words to dull or obfuscate debate.

Be aware of how this works. And be prepared to correct people who wish to shift the terms of debate away from the cold, hard truth. That discrimination against foreigners can be, or is in most cases, the same as discrimination by race.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3584

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INJUSTICE
8 ) Kyodo: 34 NJ “Trainees” died FY 2008, 16 from suspected overwork, up from 13 FY 2007

Kyodo: Thirty-four foreign trainees died in Japan in fiscal 2008 through March this year, up 13 from the previous year to hit a record high, a survey by a government-linked body promoting a training program showed Monday.

The leading causes of their deaths were brain and heart diseases, which claimed the lives of 16, while five were killed in accidents at work and four in traffic accidents. Supporters of foreign trainees said they suspect those who died from brain and heart disorders actually died from overwork. As of late 2007, about 177,000 foreigners have been staying in Japan under the government’s industrial training and technical internship program.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer supporting foreign trainees and interns, pointed out that many trainees have been forced to work long hours for lower wages and said he suspects they had died from overwork…

Ding Jianhui, 35, who came to Japan in September 2006 on the training program, said he had to work overtime for 100 to 130 hours a month at his job selling scrap metal and only received 110,000 yen per month after tax.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3626

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9) Anonymous re Scott Tucker, killed in a Tokyo bar by a man who got a suspended sentence.

Anonymous: “Now, this is why I’m writing this addendum. Clearly, I knew Scott Tucker. I knew him very well. I drank with him, Japanese-style, at least a hundred times. We drank beer, we ate very good sushi and drank sake; we drank expensive whiskey most foreigners couldn’t, or wouldn’t affordin keep bottles at very nice, exclusive clubs and snacks in central Tokyo. I never, ever, ever, saw Scott Tucker get belligerent. I never saw him get argumentative, even after polishing off a full bottle, with my help, of pricey Japanese whiskey. The implication that somehow, because of his drunkenness, he was threatening enough to pose a danger to a 154-pound disk jockey is so absurd that it leaves me livid. If I were there, and I were tanked up, and the disk jockey decided to come down and take charge of things, it would make sense. I am not a diplomat: when I’m drunk and unhappy and things are waxing ridiculous, I will throw a few people around. But Scotty, no. No, I’m sorry. Whatever the official account, he was a diplomat. Again, I never saw him belligerent, ever, and I knew him for many, many, years. This is what bothers me about the whole “Official” account; it is simply not accurate, and is stilted towards character assassination and implication that is wholly unjustified and clearly driven by agenda. To think that someone can get a probationary sentence for what amounts to ‘sucker-punching’ a neighbor to death just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t surprise meas I say, I spent the better part of my life in Japan, and I never assumed for a moment that justice would err in my favour were I to be caught out for an indiscretionbut I feel compelled to to say something on Scotty’s behalf.

“I feel compelled for this reason: were a wealthy Japanese property owner from Azabu, with a famous, elegant wife, to go into a club next door, a club operating in violation of city ordinance, and get into a row with the owners, or the disk jockey, and be killedand were that disk jockey to be a non-Japanesethe media would have a field day with it. And were the non-Japanese disk jockeyan American, or a Brit, or an African to claim he had asphyxiated the wealthy Japanese neighbor out of fear or his own lifehe would be hung from the highest tree in Japan, on national tv, as a murderer, and a fiend, and a crazed violent foreign interloper. But if it’s just a guy who blindsided Scotty, by all means, give him a suspended probationary sentence. A simple self-defense accident.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=3534

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10) Tangent: Japan Times on crackdowns on students at Hosei University

Japan Times: Illegal arrests, forced expulsions, “kidnappings” by security police and beatings by hired thugs. No, it’s not another dispatch from a violent banana republic. Those accusations come from the leafy back-streets of Ichigaya, Tokyo, home to a branch campus of the prestigious Hosei University.

Hosei authorities and a group of students are locked in a poisonous struggle that has turned the campus into something resembling a low-security prison.

Entrances are guarded by newly installed CCTV cameras and jittery guards equipped with Bluetooth headsets. Notices have been published at many sites naming and shaming “troublemakers” who have been expelled, and the police are on call in case things get out of hand.

A provisional injunction forbids students from “loitering, putting up banners and making speeches within 200 meters” of the campus.

Since the dispute began three years ago, 107 students have been arrested and 24 indicted, some of whom awaited trial in detention centers for up to six months. Last Friday, five more students were formally charged with offenses including trespassing and obstructing the police. Another is being kept in detention for at least two more weeks.

Supporters say some have been framed using a prewar law designed to crush labor protests…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3520

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GOOD NEWS?

11) Bernama.com on new proposed “points system” for NJ work visas

Bernama (Malaysian National News Agency): The government is expected to study simplifying procedures for residency permits and reentry, extending the maximum duration of residency permits from three years at present and shortening the period of residency required before securing the right to permanent residency from 10 years in principle…

Similar point systems have been introduced in Britain and Canada. In Britain, the system is applied to scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers and teachers, who can obtain the right of permanent residence in five years if they are recognised as experts with advanced expertise.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3629

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12) Teigaku Kyuufukin: Have you collected your 12,000 yen tax kickback yet?

Friend Olaf suggested to me yesterday that we ask readers of Debito.org how things are going with their collecting the Supplementary Income Payment (teigaku kyuufukin), the Aso Administration’s answer to financial stimulus (where every adult gets 12,000 yen, plus 8000 yen for oldies and dependents). And yes, NJ residents get it too, so if you haven’t yet received word from your local government with forms (see below), get in touch with your local ward office or town hall and get your kickback.

I got mine a couple of weeks ago (the Sapporo City Govt sent everyone’s by registered mail just try to imagine the costs incurred the taxpayer) and sent it in last week. Still haven’t been paid yet, but how are things going for everyone else? How do you plan to spend your loot?

I still say we could have had more universal stimulus at a lot less administrative cost if we had just given people a holiday, for however long, from the 5% consumption tax. But I’m not a policymaker; what do I know?

Lots of comments from people who have and have not received their money at

http://www.debito.org/?p=3556

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… and finally… JUST FOR FUN

14) Japanpodshow: Tokyo Podcast on Arudou Debito by Joseph Tame

Joseph: In this interview Debito talks about:

    The first few years of his life in Japan
    The Otaru Onsen Case
    The new Gaijin cards and associated human rights issues, and what you can do to stop their introduction
    Foreigners who defend discrimination against other foreigners claiming that ‘We are guests in Japan’
    Has the situation improved for foreigners in Japan in recent years?
    His public image, and new beard, Arthur.
    I have also created a page on my site, which should help get the interview to the first page when people do Google searches on you.

The page can be found at

http://pokya.jp/japanpodshow/guests/arudou-debito/

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15) Sapporo Source DEBITO Column June 2009 on Hokkaido Winters

A new “free paper” came out earlier this month in Sapporo. Called SAPPORO SOURCE (get a copy in pdf format at http://www.sapporosource.com), it contains the first of my regular monthly columns, where I talk about offbeat topics (meaning non-human-rights stuff; we got government sponsors). The first one is about the weather. Yes, the weather! Seriously.

And let me add that it’s taken some time for Japan’s #5 City to come up with a free paper of this quality (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka have all had their own for quite some time). The longstanding paper, “What’s On In Sapporo?”, is a milquetoast flyer put out by Sapporo City Government bureaucrats (who can’t even spell “calendar” correctly). SAPPORO SOURCE’s predecessor, XENE, gave it a good go until it succumbed to market temptations that contradicted its mandate as an international paper: 1) putting out damage-control advertising (see my protest letter here), sponsored by the Otaru City Government, that denied that the Otaru Exclusionary Onsens Issue actually existed, and 2) translating exclusionary signs for xenophobes in the Susukino party district, for the 2002 World Cup (some are still up to this day), that effectively said “JAPANESE ONLY” (which XENE decided to render as “MEMBERS ONLY” in five languages, but not Japanese, as if that made things all better; their letter of apology here). XENE folded a couple of years ago, and not before time. It really had no idea how to serve an NJ audience.

Now it’s SAPPORO SOURCE. I had a read of it, and it’s a professional job with a good tone and a lot of useful information. See for yourself.

Cover page and scan of my column, an offbeat one about the drama of Hokkaido winters (yes!), follows…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3544

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That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org
http://www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 27, 2009 ENDS

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