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LDP politician Onishi apologizes for making dismissive cancer comment

  • May 24, 2017
  • , The Japan Times
  • English Press

House of Representatives member Hideo Onishi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party apologized Monday for making a remark that denigrated cancer patients.


Onishi admitted to saying cancer patients “don’t have to work” at a May 15 meeting of the LDP’s health, welfare and labor division, which was discussing measures to regulate passive smoking at restaurants.


He made the remark after LDP House of Councilors member Junko Mihara said that passive smoking causes pain to employees with cancer. Onishi is cautious about cracking down on passive smoking.


Speaking to reporters at LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Onishi said he sincerely apologizes for hurting the feelings of current and recovering cancer patients.


Onishi said he meant to say that it is better for cancer patients to work in places that are healthier and free of passive smoke. He did not retract the remark.


Onishi’s remark drew criticism both from the opposition camp and the ruling bloc.


Yoshihiko Noda, secretary-general of the main opposition Democratic Party, told a news conference that Onishi’s remark was “too harsh” and that he “failed as a human being.” Akira Koike, head of the Japanese Communist Party’s secretariat, said it is “an intolerable remark for a person.”


Yoshinori Oguchi, who is in charge of the parliamentary affairs of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, said Onishi’s remark “differs from our views.”


LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told a news conference that Onishi should deeply reflect on what he said.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that providing job support for people with illnesses such as cancer is important.


Onishi has a history of making controversial remarks.


In 2014, he told a female lawmaker asking a question in a Lower House committee meeting that she should have a baby soon. In 2015, he said at an LDP study meeting that media organizations critical of the state-sponsored national security bills should be punished.

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