Japan Times IC Chip Gaijin Card Pt 3: View of Bureaucrats: Control of NJ at all costs


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Hi Blog. The Japan Times scoops again. After two articles exposing approaches of the LDP (their slavish obeisance to the policing MOJ, who fed them the law) and the DPJ (who took the LDP’s nonsense evidence about policing of foreigners in other countries at face value), Matsutani-san now gets the viewpoint of those bureaucrats who designed the new Gaijin Cards and NJ policing regime. And it ain’t pretty. Strikes me as pretty paranoid. Sounds even like they’d police everyone if everyone were in such a weak position in society as foreigners; more on that tomorrow. Meanwhile, it also seems clear that the original proposal has been watered down a bit thanks to public outrage, but there is still no consciousness within the bureaucratic mien of how these laws, once put in the hands of the police, can further encourage racial profiling and targeting (current laws with more lax policing than now already do that, and there are no real safeguards to protect human rights as ever).

Anyway, excerpted below. Have a read. And there are more viewpoints to come. Well done Japan Times. Get your local library to subscribe to it, everyone. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Drawing a bead on illegal residents
New law would tighten up oversight of foreigners
Saturday, June 27, 2009

Excerpt follows. Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090627f1.html

… “As the current laws stand, it is difficult to grasp the precise situations of foreign residents,” Immigration Bureau General Affairs Division official Kazuyuki Motohari told The Japan Times…

Although Lower House lawmakers changed the government’s version of the bills and passed a revised one that exerts less control over foreign residents than the original, the bureau will accept what the lawmakers decided, Motohari said.

“There were no corrections that dramatically changed the main idea of our version of the bills,” he said.

While the bureau hopes the bills help provide a clearer picture of overstayers, this will not be achieved unless foreigners properly report their status.

Under the new system, it will be difficult for illegal residents to remain illegal because foreigners’ personal information will be centralized with the Justice Ministry and punishments for failing to report changes in information will be harsher…

Human rights groups complain that because the justice minister can access foreign residents’ personal information with residence (“zairyu”) card numbers, which are to be given to every documented foreigner, it is an infringement of privacy. Motohari defended the bureau by saying, “It is not unusual for us to hold information that helps us confirm the identify of foreign residents.”

Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090627f1.html

7 comments on “Japan Times IC Chip Gaijin Card Pt 3: View of Bureaucrats: Control of NJ at all costs

  • I am still not afraid of these IC cards excepting the possibility of random IC card reading.

    Having the information in the hands of the MOJ, while enabling enforcement in the event of overstaying, from the perspective of someone who does not overstay, has certain benefits.

    The MOJ is an institution controlled by elites who take pride in their work and would have to take responsibility for a screw-up in releasing the information to others. City governments are more variable in quality and responsibility because there are many of them. I would at least know that I can blame a bunch of University of Tokyo grads who studied abroad at Cambridge and have some perspective on what it is like to live in a foreign country as an immigrant for any problems rather than a provincial city worker who had a bad day and is bored.

    I do of course also think the additional punishments for forgetting to update this or that information are unfortunate. However, under the old system, I know people who didn’t update their employer, address, etc. for multiple years at a time and all the government could do is say, hey, you shouldn’t do that. If the law is going to require these updates, which it already does, it needs some kind of teeth to enforce it. I would absolutely like to see the amount reduced and to have it classified as an administrative fee of some kind rather than a penalty, but we could absolutely imagine much worse results given the current political climate. Hostility toward shadowy foreigners absolutely multiplies during periods of recession, and we are seeing this reflected in law changes around the world. I’ll take the MOJ drafting bills over the LDP elements who care about immigration (hard right politicians) drafting even worse bills any day of the week.

    — Just to raise one point: You’re very confident the MOJ would take responsibility for its screwups.

  • Bob,

    Too much faith is put in people here IMHO just because they come from one of the name brand universities in this country. Plenty of boobs have come from Waseda, Keio, etc.

    At least you can vote out the political boobs.


  • John,

    I am very sympathetic to the notion that a name brand university should not dictate whether one is respected. However, the group of people from Todai who passed the level 1 civil servants exam and then showed their hard work, intellect and dedication above and beyond other such people enough to gain a position of power and influence policy are not just people with a ‘name brand education’. For that reason, while I am sympathetic to your comment, I think it is not applicable here.
    I would trust the unelected elite of the ministries over the people the Japanese national electorate would choose with respect to foreign labor. I speculate that the likely reason the MOJ drafted these guidelines is because the LDP right demanded some additional enforcement provisions to appease the anti-foreigner elements in its political base. I further speculate that had the LDP itself drafted these provisions, we would be in a far worse situation.

    I do not have a good answer for Debito’s point, though. I am not familiar enough to know whether the MOJ would take responsibility for any problems they cause with respect to the structure of this system.

    — I really think you should read more about who governs and drafts laws in Japan. If you think the LDP puts pressure on the bureaucrats to draft their laws (especially in this case), you really are a bit misinformed.

  • Bob,

    A good education and a successful career just show that someone is intelligent and good at office politics, it says very little about how much empathy, compassion, or cross-cultural awareness they possess.

    Since they are essentially invisible to us (NJ residents) we cannot tell one way or the other how well they can support our needs and rights, so I don’t see why we should automatically trust them. This is why an actually Ministry of Immigration is needed that operates with a certain level of transparency. Until that happens there cannot be a trusting relationship between NJ residents and the govenrment body in charge of managing them.

    As for the MOJ owning up to mistakes, I have personally experienced one case where the police refused to acknowledge a serious complaint from an NJ. I found out then that in order to file a complaint the police have to agree that the complaint is valid…if they don’t think it’s valid they will make no public record of it. Does that sound like a system that encourages accountability?

  • I think the only way I’d enjoy staying here anymore is if I had diplomatic immunity with a stateside job – but then the police would probably attempt to ignore that too.

  • More news on the immigration law reform bills in Japan Today:

    “Alarm caused by imminent passage of immigration law reform bills”, July 3


    TOKYO —

    Foreign residents and their supporters aired their concerns Thursday about the imminent Diet passage of bills to revise immigration laws, claiming the amendments are intended to tighten controls on non-Japanese residents and that modifications made so far to the bills are not sufficient.

    The bills are currently being deliberated at the House of Councillors Judicial Affairs Committee and the ruling bloc wants to enact them as soon as next week, while some opposition members are calling for more caution in examining them, said Sohei Nihi, an upper house member of the opposition Japanese Communist Party.

    On June 19, the bills cleared the House of Representatives with support from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner the New Komeito party and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The three parties agreed on revisions to the bills such as deleting a clause that requires permanent residents of Korean and Taiwanese descent to always carry a residency card.

    Foreign residents and their supporters again raised their voices against the bills and demanded they be scrapped in a meeting held Thursday at the upper house members’ office building.

    Sonoko Kawakami, campaign coordinator of Amnesty International Japan, criticized the government for not providing any information on the planned revisions in foreign languages to non-Japanese residents. ‘

    ‘The government should translate Diet deliberations on the bills into foreign languages and set an occasion to hear foreigners’ views,’’ she said. Kim Boong Ang, co-representative of the Organization of United Korean Youth in Japan, said he believes the greatest problem with the bills is that they increase the requirements for non-Japanese residents to stay legally in the country.

    ‘‘The government will become able to expel foreign residents more easily. Pressures have been mounting on us to leave the country if we do not like Japanese rules,’’ Kim said. The proposed revisions of the immigration laws would impose a fine of up to 200,000 yen on foreigners who fail to notify the government of a change in address within 14 days, and their residency status could be revoked if they fail to report changes within 90 days.

    Foreign spouses of Japanese or non-Japanese permanent residents could lose their residency status if they fail to ‘‘conduct activities normally carried out by spouses’’ for six months under the revised immigration laws, but victims of domestic violence would be immune to that condition.

    Although the modification deleted the requirement for permanent residents of Korean and Taiwanese descent to always carry the residency card to identify them, Kim said it would not necessarily lessen the burden on those residents because they are still required by Japanese authorities to present the card whenever requested.


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