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Hokkaido cops overly zealous in accommodating what they assume are Abe’s wishes

  • September 1, 2019
  • , FACTA
  • JMH Translation

Japan seems to have fallen to the level of a nation whose police detain people for booing a prime minister.


On July 15, during the House of Councillors election campaign, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was giving a campaign speech in Sapporo City, Hokkaido. A man in his 30s started shouting repeatedly at the prime minister, “Step down, Abe, go home Abe.” The moment after the man started shouting, about 10 uniformed and plainclothes policemen grabbed and took him away. When a female college student shouted “No tax hike,” the police grabbed her arm and took her away. The police followed her for about two hours even after the prime minister was gone.


The Public Offices Election Act prohibits obstruction of campaign speeches. The 1948 Supreme Court ruling defined obstruction as “any act that makes it difficult or impossible to hear a campaign speech.” In the aforementioned cases, the two individuals did not make a loud noise or act in such a manner that listeners were distracted from the speech. Booing a politician during a campaign speech is a common practice and is the price of fame. It is also evidence that freedom of speech exists.


“We took proactive measures to prevent a crime or trouble from happening,” said the Hokkaido police. The remarks sound like those made by the Special Higher Police in wartime. Investigation of this sort of police behavior revealed a familiar accommodation of the administration’s wishes. It went too far.


Prime Minister Abe bitterly resents being criticized. When opposition parties hoot and jeer at him during a Budget Committee meeting, he is visibly frustrated like a child.


During the last House of Councillors election, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) did not release the schedule of the prime minister’s campaign speech. This is related to his remarks made during 2017 Tokyo gubernatorial election. In response to protesters’ chanting, “Step down, Abe,” the prime minister fired back at them, saying, “The LDP would never stoop to disrupting somebody’s speech with insults.” This added fuel to the fire of criticizing the administration.


The prime minister should never be annoyed while giving a campaign speech. Former high-ranking police officers at the Kantei spread the word that the prime minister dislikes being heckled to prefectural police headquarters. National Police Agency Security Bureau Director-General Yoshihiko Oishi was a secretary to the prime minister until January this year. 


True or not, rumor has it that Director of Cabinet Intelligence Shigeru Kitamura, who is from the National Police Agency, was at the site of campaign speech in Sapporo. Kitamura served as secretary to the prime minister during the first Abe administration. Since the second Abe administration, he has served in the current post as the head of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office. He is one of the prime minister’s closest aides and nicknamed “Eichmann at the Kantei.” 


Even if Kitamura was at the site of the campaign speech, it remains uncertain whether he directed the police organization [to prevent listeners from distracting the prime minister]. There is no way, however, that the Hokkaido prefectural police headquarters did not surmise Kitamura’s wishes. He is a strong candidate for succeeding Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita who climbed to the top of the police bureaucracy. Kitamura is one of the “Kantei police” who aims to advance his career, and prefectural police headquarters try to accommodate the wishes of the Kantei. This is a structure that freezes our blood. The Kantei was also severely criticized for another incident. Director Itaru Nakamura of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Bureau used to be a secretary to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. He suspended the execution of an arrest warrant for a sex crime allegedly committed by a close friend of Prime Minister Abe’s.


After all, Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun widely covered the removal of the hecklers from the venue of the Sapporo campaign speech. So aware of these incidents, the opposition parties were able to criticize the administration. The Hokkaido police messed up. The Kantei police are now intent on shifting the blame on the Hokkaido police. (Abridged)

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