Monitoring prime minister question sessions beginning December 8 in the Diet, one couldn’t help but be aghast at the low human rights awareness by legislators in both the ruling and opposition parties.
Remarkably, no one other than Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the major opposition Democratic Party for the People (DPP), referred to the question whether the Japanese government should engage in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The lack of sensitivity to human rights problems in the highest organ of state power, the national parliament, is embarrassing. Are the legislators simply indifferent to the acts of genocide by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang Uyghur region and heavy-handed repression of democracy advocates in Hong Kong?
The lawmakers should show more empathy and concern for those who are being oppressed. Each political party is urged to press the government in the upcoming debate for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games.
As of December 9, nine legislators in the respective parties’ executive posts — including Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary-general Toshimitsu Motegi, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) leader Kenta Izumi, and ruling coalition partner Komeito secretary-general Keiichi Ishii — took the rostrum to put questions to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other members of the his Cabinet.
Only Mr. Tamaki called on Prime Minister Kishida to consider effecting a diplomatic boycott to “avoid sending a false message to the international community as if this country tolerates China’s human rights abuses.”
What the DPP leader pointed out is only natural as a party leader and politician of a democratic country.
Prime Minister Kishida responded by saying Japan is ready to raise its voice against China’s deplorable human rights abuses. But on the question of a diplomatic boycott, he would only say, “I would like to comprehensively consider the issue, taking into account all of the circumstances, and make my own judgment in light of Japan’s national interests.”
The announcement of diplomatic boycotts by the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada has made headlines around the world, while also drawing attention to how Japan is responding.
Diet members can raise a wide variety of topics in the question-and-answer sessions. It is hardly conceivable that only the DPP would raise the issue of boycotting the Beijing Games. If the other parties failed to take up the issue for fear of an adverse reaction from the Chinese government, then they should be disqualified from Japanese politics.
The Kishida administration, for its part, has no enthusiasm for a boycott. Therefore, if the Diet debate fails to highlight the issue, international trust in Japan could be jeopardized.
If, as a neighbor of China, Japan remains ambiguous, the effectiveness of the diplomatic boycott in bringing pressure to bear on Beijing to put an end to its human rights abuses will be diminished. Thereafter, no matter how much Japan appeals for a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” it will lack persuasion.
Each political party should work proactively on the adoption of a resolution condemning China for its grave human rights violations. And all parties should work on the enactment of a Japan version of the United States’ Magnitsky Act, authorizing sanctions for the infringement of human rights.