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POLITICS

Chinese secretary and money entrap LDP “candidate for Cabinet minister”

  • December 23, 2021
  • , Shukan Bunshun , pp. 22–26
  • JMH Translation

By Shukan Bunshun editorial desk

 

It was a strange sight. Upper House member Matsushita Shinpei was standing on the stage in the Hotel New Otani’s Ho-o banquet room, wearing a crested hakama, and behind him was a large bonsai tree that he himself boasted cost “100 million yen.” At the same time, Chinese could be heard throughout the room, and the display on the left side of the stage was a tower not made of square wooden cups of Japanese sake or glasses of champagne but bottles of Maotai liquor made in Guizhou Province, China.

 

The scene described above was from “Matsushita Shinpei’s Politics and Economics Seminar,” a political fundraising party held on Dec. 2 by Matsushita Shinpei, a 55-year-old Liberal Democratic Party member in the Upper House. About 250 people gathered for the event, which started at 5:00 p.m. The first to take the stage was former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, who, like Matsushita, is a Hosei University graduate. In his remarks, Suga spoke about what he has been doing recently, mentioning a nationwide tour to check the COVID situation. He closed by encouraging Matsushita, who was standing next to him. “I support him!” said Suga.

 

Toward the end of the gathering, a video message from Prime Minister Kishida Fumio was shown. Prime Minister Kishida expressed strong support for Matsushita, saying, “He’s our shining star for the future!”

 

Matsushita has served as a Diet member for 17 years. He has been elected three times, which is said to make him eligible for a cabinet position. He has all the qualifications to be regarded as a “candidate for a ministerial position” next time.

 

“I don’t see his wife,” muttered a party participant to his companions. “She always attends these events,”

 

Matsushita’s wife of many years has many fans in his constituency. “If his wife were not there, he would only get half as many votes,” say his supporters. His wife was not present at this party, an event she has always attended every year.

 

In the place of his wife was a beautiful woman in a lavender dress busily assisting Chinese guests.

 

———

 

“After graduating from university, Matsushita worked for the prefectural government and as a secretary to former Upper House member Nagamine Motoi. Matsushita was elected twice to the prefectural assembly. After that, he ran in the 2004 Upper House election and won a seat for the first time,” said a Shukan Bunshun political desk reporter.

 

He is the “shining hope” [of the LDP]. Elected from Miyazaki Prefecture, he served as a Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism; State Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications; and State Minister of Cabinet Office under the Abe administration.

 

The Public Security Intelligence Agency and the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office reportedly took extraordinary interest in the Dec. 2 fundraising party. Why would that be?

 

“‘Economic security’ will be Prime Minister Kishida’s highest priority in his new administration. In forming his second Cabinet, Kishida decided to establish the new post of Minister in charge of Economic Security. He also created a new department at the Cabinet Office to serve as the ‘command tower’ for economic security. He is also moving forward with preparations to submit an economic security promotion bill to the ordinary Diet session next year with an eye to preventing the outflow of advanced technology to China and other countries,” said the political desk reporter.

 

Meanwhile, European nations and the United States have declared a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, and all eyes are on how the Kishida administration will handle the matter. It was right at that time that a large number of Chinese attended the fundraising party held by this up-and-coming LDP lawmaker.

 

According to an interview article, Matsushita began to be involved in Japan-China relations in 2017 when he was invited [to get involved] by former Upper House member Hamada Kazuyuki. Matsushita became director of the LDP’s Foreign Affairs Division in 2018 and attended a ceremony held in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 2019. In February 2020, when China was struggling with the COVID pandemic, Matsushita recorded a video message of support for China from in front of the Moai statues in Miyazaki: Yiqi jiayou! (Let’s join hands and do our best!)”and “Wo ai ni (I love you!).”

 

Since October 2020, Matsushita has also chaired a special committee on official development assistance (ODA).

 

Today, Matsushita belongs to the Tanigaki group (Yurinkai), which is led by former LDP President Tanigaki Sadakazu. As mentioned above, Matsushita is also close to former Prime Minister Suga. This means he is free and flexible.

 

“He aims to become a cabinet member after he is reelected next year,” says an LDP source. “So he has recently been letting the word out that he is thinking of joining the Abe faction because it is the LDP’s largest.”

 

It was about two years earlier that a breathtakingly beautiful Chinese woman began to get close to Matsushita. That person is the beautiful woman who was strutting around the December fundraising party in a lavender dress.

 

The two stayed together at the Hotel New Otani for a month

 

Here is her business card [photo]. Her title is: “Diplomatic Advisor and Diplomatic Relations Secretary, Office of Matsushita Shinpei,” and a head-and-shoulders photo of Matsushita appears in the upper left-hand corner of the card. Let’s call her Ms. X. “Ms. X is now 42 years old. She was born and raised in a wealthy family in Fujian Province, I understand. She also is manager of the Tokyo Branch Office of Teio Trading Company (fictitious name), a company based in Hokkaido that specializes in selling sea cucumbers. It was the president of Teio Trading Company who first introduced her to Matsushita,” says an acquaintance of Ms. X.

 

Matsushita took a fancy to Ms. X and gradually grew closer to her. Eventually he gave her a business card as “secretary” and a pass that gave her free access to the Diet Members’ Office Building, and she started going frequently to his office.

 

Around spring 2021, Shukan Bunshun learned that a mysterious Chinese secretary was getting very close to Matsushita and began looking into it.

 

Once Shukan Bunshun started looking into the situation, it witnessed Matsushita accompanying Ms. X night after night and attending meals with Japanese supporters or executives of Chinese companies.

 

For example, they had dinner with a Japanese couple at a sushi restaurant in Nishi-Kasai, Tokyo, on April 8. Such an occasion should not have required [Ms. X to attend as] a Chinese-Japanese interpreter.

 

In early May, the state of emergency was extended and people were asked to continue to refrain from inter-prefectural travel. “Even though a state of emergency was in effect, Matsushita and Ms. X traveled from Tokyo to Narita and stayed overnight. The next morning, they played golf with a Chinese company president and others. They stayed at Narita again that night, too. It seems that the two of them went to Aichi via Tokyo the next day. After staying overnight in Aichi, they played golf with another Chinese company president the next day. That night, they stayed in Aichi again, and it seems they hurried back to Nagatacho, Tokyo, the next day because he had a committee meeting starting from the morning. A dinner with yet another Chinese company president was set up for that night. In the end, they spent the entire “China focused” business trip of four nights and five days together,” says a source at a Chinese company.

 

Even after the Suga administration announced the fourth state of emergency on July 12, the two continued their honeymoon.

 

At 5:00 p.m. on July 16, a government car stopped in front of a luxurious mansion in Yoyogi-Uehara. The owner of the residence is a Chinese company president. Matsushita and Ms. X emerged from the mansion. Matsushita was holding a paper shopping bag from ” Quolofune,” a famous Castella cake store, and Ms. X also had her hands full.

 

The two came out of the mansion four hours after the banquet had ended. It was after 9:00 p.m. As the residence owner and others sent them off, Matsushita gave Ms. X the better seat in the back seat of the vehicle that had come for them. He was not treating Ms. X as one would treat a secretary. He was treating her as one might treat someone one is growing close to. As the car pulled away, the silhouettes formed of the backs of their heads became one.

 

“The two often attended these kinds of home parties. Before I knew it, Ms. X began to even say, ‘I want to have Matsushita’s child!'” said Ms. X’s acquaintance mentioned above.

 

The relationship between the two would upset even a happy marriage. “Matsushita has a wife his same age whom he married at the age of 26. They have been married for almost 30 years and have three daughters. His wife’s father is the former mayor of a city in Miyazaki Prefecture, and his wife has well fulfilled her role as a politician’s wife by attending meetings in her husband’s constituency of Miyazaki and actively participating in the [LDP chapter’s] women’s association. As Mr. Matsushita became increasingly bewitched by Ms. X, however, he apparently even avoided eye contact with his wife.”

 

In September 2021, the marriage completely collapsed.

 

“His wife reached the end of her rope and returned to her parents’ house with all of her things from the House of Councillors members’ dormitory. Matsushita explained to those around him, ‘My wife is back with her parents for COVID-related reasons.’ Meanwhile, his wife explained that she is going home “to care for her father.” “This was done in an attempt not to stir things up. I have heard that his wife already has a lawyer and is taking actions to seek a divorce,” said an acquaintance of the couple.

 

Matsushita apparently had no ear for his supporters’ advice. “For several years, Matsushita had been saying, ‘Japan and China are inseparable’ and’ Japan has to align itself [with China],’” reveals a supporter. “When my friends attended one of Matsushita’s political fundraising parties, they said the room was filled with Chinese and they thought that was strange. I have heard a lot of strange rumors about Ms. X, but when I questioned Matsushita, he just said, ‘I swear to you they are not true.’ I have no choice but to believe him.”

 

Matsushita has recently started taking Chinese lessons. He is also promoting the “Sinicization” of his office. “We started to use WeChat in addition to LINE for intraoffice communications. We shared internal materials in PDF and other formats [via WeChat]. Some secretaries seemed to dislike it, but Matsushita forced them to use it,” says a source from the Office of Matsushita Shinpei.

 

WeChat is Tencent’s communications app. Yasuda Minetoshi, a reportage writer familiar with China, describes WeChat, saying, “It is the number-one messaging infrastructure in China and has 1.2 billion users worldwide, most of whom are Chinese. When I will talk about politically sensitive stories on the app, such as stories on Xi Jinping and the democratization movement, however, the messages can’t be sent or my account is deleted. It seems that the voice chat and shared images are also monitored by AI.”

 

Reportedly, there is also a risk that the data on the mobile phone is being collected. Yasuda says, “Even in the case of mobile phones used in Japan, all the image data on them is accessed by Tencent and collected by China’s Ministry of Public Security if the phone has WeChat installed. I hear that U.S. diplomats bring a cell phone with no information on it when they visit China, use WeChat [while in the country], and then throw the cell phone away when they leave for home so that they will not be tracked.”

 

Matsushita and Ms. X’s strange honeymoon is filled with problems of accountability for Matsushita as a politician. One of them is the suspicion about the tickets for fundraising parties. “Ms. X often introduces Chinese businesspeople to Matsushita and sells them party tickets on the spot. She made about half of last year’s sales from party tickets, and most of her sales were to Chinese,” says the source from the Office of Matsushita Shinpei.

 

Let’s take a look at Matsushita’s political funding report. According to the funding report of the fund management organization “Diet Office of Matsushita Shinpei,” income from fundraising parties amounted to 9.67 million yen in 2018 and was 9.87 million yen in 2019. However, in 2020, when Ms. X started to get involved in raising funds, the amount jumped about 2.5-fold to 25.15 million yen. If half of this is thanks to Ms. X, it means she earned nearly 12 million yen.

 

The Political Funds Control Act prohibits [politicians from] receiving contributions and donations from foreigners. The person in charge of political groups that have intentionally received [such funds] will be sentenced to up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 500,000 yen, and their civil rights will be suspended.

 

MOJ sources’ valuable evidence

 

The law strictly prohibits donations from foreigners in order to prevent foreign powers from having an influence on Japanese politics and elections and harming Japan’s national interests. There are no rules, however, regarding the purchase of tickets to parties. Therefore, it is not impossible for people from a particular foreign country to exert influence on politicians by buying large numbers of party tickets. Such a move, however, can be said to be an act in evasion of the law in view of the purport of the legislation.

 

There are other issues, as well. Kobe Gakuin University Professor Kamiwaki Hiroshi, an expert on political funding, points out: “If Ms. X sells party tickets even though she is not the [Diet] member’s (official) secretary and deposits the income at his office at a later date, it may fall under “mediation” in the Political Funds Control Act. If the proceeds from the sale of these mediated tickets exceeds 200,000 yen, it is mandatory that the name and address of the mediator be recorded in full in the political funding report.”

 

There is no mention of a “mediator” in Matsushita’s political funding report.

 

“If there is no record, it is a violation of the Political Funds Control Act. Also, the purchase of a party ticket is paid as a consideration for such things as the food and drinks served at the party. If there were a case where someone bought a party ticket, but had no intention of participating and in fact did not participate, that amount is essentially a donation, and that must also be recorded [in the political funding report],” explained Professor Kamiwaki. Ms. X handles a wider range of tasks than her title of “diplomatic relations secretary” and “diplomatic advisor” [would indicate], and she reportedly accompanies Matsushita [to perform duties] in areas other than fundraising and interpreting.

 

“Ms. X has exceeded her role of diplomatic adviser and is gradually becoming an indispensable right-hand for Matsushita. I understand she receives no compensation at all, however,” says the previously mentioned LDP source.

 

Shukan Bunshun’s investigation revealed that she goes to the office two or three weekdays every week and stays there a long time making phone calls. She also accompanies Matsushita on evening dinners. Another legal issue arises if she is doing this for no compensation. Nihon University Professor Emeritus Iwai Tomoaki who specializes in politics, comments: “Under the Political Funds Control Act, a corporation’s shouldering of a secretary’s compensation is also considered to be a donation to a politician. If Ms. X is on the roll at Teio Trading Company and is being compensated by that company and yet is performing office duties as a secretary [at Matsushita’s Office] several times a week for no compensation, it will be viewed as shouldering a secretary’s compensation. The amount paid is considered a donation from the company to the politician and must be recorded in the political funding report.”

 

There is no record of a donation from Teio Trading Company in Matsushita’s political funding report, however. “If donations that should be recorded are intentionally not recorded, the person in charge of the political group [i.e., Matsushita] would face up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million yen,” says Professor Emeritus Iwai.

 

There have been Diet members in the past who have encountered the same problem, but most of them have apologized, saying it was an honest mistake, and then put things in order by revising their political funding report. In the case of Matsushita, however, there is a “special reason” why this cannot be done.

 

According to a private research institute’s investigation as of October 2018, 500 of the 700 stocks issued by Teio Trading Company are held by three Chinese directors, and the remaining 200 are held by the president, a naturalized Japanese citizen of Chinese birth. In other words, the majority of the company’s stocks are controlled by Chinese. Shukan Bunshun inquired with Teio Trading Company about the stock ratio but received no response. It looks like Chinese hold the majority of stock today as well because there is no indication on the registry that there has been a capital increase since then and the directors have also not changed.

 

Teio Trading Company is a Japanese corporation registered in accordance with Japanese law, but the company cannot make donations [to a Japanese politician] under the Political Funds Control Act if foreign nationals hold the majority of stocks. A company is not subject to the ban on donations if five years have passed since the company was listed on the Japanese stock exchange, but Teio is an unlisted company.

 

In other words, it is impossible [for Matsushita] to revise the political funding report to state “donation from Teio Trading Company.”

 

Moreover, when Shukan Bunshun mentioned the name of Matsushita in Kasumigaseki and said it was writing a story, Ministry of Justice sources said, “There has been a sudden increase in the number of China-related inquiries we have received from the Office of Matsushita Shinpei from last year through this year. The questions are about visas and permanent residency and whether approvals and authorizations will be given. It seems like they are inquiring in order to inform [the visa seekers] early.”

 

Shukan Bunshun formally asked the MOJ Secretarial Division’s Public Relations Office how many inquiries the MOJ has received from the Office of Matsushita Shinpei, to which the office said, “We refrain from answering questions on matters related to individual Diet members.”

 

On the policy front as well, it seems Matsushita is oriented toward China. On Oct. 14, 2021, Matsushita held a meeting titled “Keynote Speeches at the Japan-China Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Promotion Association” at the Members’ Office Building of the House of Councillors. “It was a delicate time as Kishida had just taken a strong stance [on the matter]. Asked about the BRI during the LDP presidential election campaign right before that, Kishida said, ‘The BRI aims to expand the pro-China bloc. I will take a resolute stance (omission),’” said the aforementioned political desk reporter.

 

This meeting was criticized in a YouTube program featuring a Sankei Shimbun reporter and a political journalist and others a few days later.

 

Legal loopholes must be closed

 

“Fearing criticism from the right, Matsushita immediately took away Ms. X’s business cards and suspended the use of WeChat at his office. This also was just superficial, however. Ms. X continues to frequent his office, and she also participated in the fundraising party on Dec. 2. Nothing has actually changed,” said the aforementioned LDP source.

 

What do Matsushita and Ms. X have to say? Shukan Bunshun spoke directly with Ms. X on the night of Dec. 12.

 

Shukan Bunshun: You sell a lot of tickets to [Matsushita’s] fundraising parties. Doesn’t this fall under “mediation” in the Political Funds Control Act?

 

Ms. X: I am not a member of his office now. I am just offering my cooperation. Originally this cooperation was in my role as diplomatic advisor to Mr. Matsushita. I am not selling tickets. I am just encouraging people to cooperate, you could say.

 

Shukan Bunshun: Do you introduce people [to Matsushita]?

 

Ms. X: Introducing is not the right word. If I receive a request from someone [I arrange a meeting]. Um, it’s up to his office. I have no say in the matter.

 

Shukan Bunshun: Are you romantically attached to Matsushita?

 

Ms. X: Well . . . no . . . I don’t think so . . . I’m not attached to him at all.

 

Shukan Bunshun then spoke directly with Diet member Matsushita, saying, “We would like to ask you about your relationship with Ms. X.” “Ask me in writing!” Matsushita replied rapidly, as he entered the Members’ Office Building of the House of Councillors while keeping the reporter at a distance with his arm.

 

Shukan Bunshun sent a list of written questions to Matsushita’s office and received a written response that said as follows overall:

 

“(My diplomatic advisors including Ms. X) do not work for the office full time. When I need to know something, I ask them and they answer out of good will. No compensation results nor does any salary or the like. (Ms. X) is one of these volunteers. Your statement that a foreign-affiliated company is shouldering an employee salary is untrue.

 

“As for the fundraising party tickets, purchasers pay directly, either by bank remittance or in cash. This is not ‘mediation.’ People from a variety of nations attend the parties, not just Chinese but also people from Taiwan, South Korea, and Central Asia, among others. (An affair with Ms. X and my divorcing my wife) are pure fabrication.”

 

When Shukan Bunshun visited Matsushita’s wife’s parents’ home to ask for his wife’s views, however, her mother handled the inquiry. She said that her daughter was staying at the family home, but otherwise kept her remarks brief, simply saying, “She is not in a condition to answer questions.”

 

The United States among other nations is increasingly wary of China as it seeks to expand. Is China “infiltrating” the Kishida administration? If it talks about economic security, it must close as soon as possible the “loopholes” in the law, including the purchase by foreigners of tickets to fundraising parties.

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