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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Mystery of the Diet’s avoidance of condemning China

  • June 19, 2021
  • , Sankei , p. 12
  • JMH Translation

By Sakai Mitsuru, deputy chief of the political news department


Although a resolution condemning China’s human rights violations had been a focus of discussion during the ordinary Diet session that ended on June 16, its adoption was put off in the end. The resolution was prepared a long time ago after gaining broad support from conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and members of other parties. But the decision not to adopt the resolution eventually exposed that Japan is a “country that can’t criticize China’s human rights violations.”


Senior officials of the ruling bloc cite three reasons for the failure to adopt the resolution: (1) the tight schedule of the Diet session, (2) the difficulty of following the principle of gaining unanimous consent when adopting a resolution, and (3) the absence of evidence to confirm human rights violations.


But the first reason doesn’t hold water. Last November the LDP’s Japan-Uyghur parliamentary league (Chair: Furuya Keiji, currently a suprapartisan group) confirmed that they would aim for the adoption of a Diet resolution calling for the improvement of the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. When the U.S. government recognized in January that China was committing genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, international calls for actions on the human rights abuses there spread and heightened the momentum for a Diet resolution in Japan.


In other words, there was plenty of time. One can only wonder why LDP Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro said, “I haven’t heard enough opinions from people concerned” toward the end of the Diet session on June 7.


The resolution condemning Myanmar, where the military staged a coup in February, was submitted for discussion later than the one condemning China’s human rights violations but was approved by the Lower House on June 8. This means that regardless of whether there was enough time or not, the anti-China resolution met with strong opposition.


The “unanimous accord” mentioned in the second reason is only required in principle. Komeito Secretary-General Ishii Keiichi, who waited until the last minute to take action, said during a press conference on June 11, “The adoption of a Diet resolution is predicated on unanimous approval.” But there are many resolutions that have been adopted without unanimous approval, including the “resolution of protest against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s landing on Takeshima Island and his comment regarding the Emperor” adopted in August 2012, which met with opposition from the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).


Also, the “resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II” adopted in June 1995 drew opposition from not only the largest opposition New Frontier Party at the time but also the ruling LDP and the Japan Socialist Party. So the resolution was adopted with approval from fewer than half of all Diet members, a result that hardly demonstrated the will of the legislative body.


Then how about the third reason? Senior officials of the Japanese government insist that the Chinese government flatly denies the human rights abuses. They also argue that even though Uyghurs living in Japan have repeatedly made desperate pleas and the media has reported on the actual situation in the region, the Japanese government has not confirmed the human rights violations firsthand.


Take the “resolution calling for an early resolution of the suspected abductions of Japanese citizens” adopted in April 2002 for example. The government recognized the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea for the first time in March 1988, with the then-National Public Safety Commission Chairman Kajiyama Seiroku saying, “There is a strong possibility that they were abducted.” But the North did not admit its abductions until then Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro visited the North five months after the resolution was adopted. Japan does not have an embassy in North Korea as it has no diplomatic ties with the country. So the resolution was adopted unanimously even though no “clear evidence” was available


By the way, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) approved the adoption of the latest resolution condemning China within their respective parties on June 10. This makes it hard to say that the resolution was not adopted due to resistance from the opposition parties and clearly shows where the responsibility lies.


The resolution, which never materialized in the end, did not include the word “China” at all and only cited such specific places as Xinjiang Uyghur and Tibet.


The resolution said the human rights issue “is more than just an internal affair of a country” and strongly called for an immediate stop to the “serious human rights violations.” But at the same time it oddly gave consideration to China by not specifying what “a country” refers to and who needs to stop the violations.


The Group of Seven (G7) members other than Japan have imposed an asset freeze and other sanctions on Chinese officials. The joint communique issued by the G7 leaders after the recent summit in the U.K. says, “We call on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.”


Nonetheless, voices of caution from some within the ruling bloc who do not want to provoke China prevented Japan’s Diet from expressing its intention regarding China’s serious human rights violations. This will inevitably make other countries think Japan is two-faced.


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