Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, the activist opposing the relocation of the United States military airfield at Futenma to Henoko in Nago City, got a lukewarm reception at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva recently.
He appeared on June 15, speaking about his 5-month detention back home—how he was “not allowed family visits”—and accused the Japanese government of “suppression of human rights.”
“Haisai, chuuganabira (Hello, everyone). I am Hiroji Yamashiro, and I conduct peaceful demonstrations against the American government’s human rights violations in Okinawa,” he opened his 90-second speech in a mix of English and Okinawan dialect before the rights body.
One participant, a leader of an NGO that fights for human rights in Tibet, seemed not impressed by Yamashiro’s portrayal of victimhood.
“He was not speaking on behalf of someone else’s suffering, but simply talked about his own personal case. I don’t understand it at all,” the NGO leader said after the Okinawan activist’s speech.
The woman, whose NGO is based in Germany, had spoken before Yamashiro. She told the body that, since 2009, over 150 Tibetans had self-immolated in protest of China’s oppressive policies. She said the families of those who committed protest suicides were being punished by the Chinese government.
“I request that the Human Rights Council approach China about hosting a monitoring mission,” she said.
What were Yamashiro’s grievances compared to these Tibetans?
Yamashiro also spoke at another Human Rights Council-related event, telling over 50 media and NGO representatives that “our unjust treatment serves as a warning to other Okinawans opposed to government tyranny, and is nothing other than intimidation.”
An Okinawa Times reporter also spoke, claiming that his paper and the Ryukyu Shinpo were “under verbal attack from the government.”
However, when defendant Yamashiro was asked about videos of him violently attacking a worker from the Okinawa’s Defense Bureau during a rally, he stonewalled. “I am being trumpeted as if I were the number one terrorist in Japan” was all he could say.
Regarding defendant Yamashiro’s activism, Okinawan TV and radio host Masako Ganaha also addressed the UN Human Rights Council. Her speech is as follows:
Statement delivered by Miss Masako Ganaha on behalf of Association to Convey the Truth About Okinawa
I am Masako Ganaha from Okinawa, Japan. I wish to report about the situation in Okinawa and an attempt on June 15 to misuse the United Nations by a violent, anti-U.S. base activist named Hiroji Yamashiro.
Human rights and freedom of expression of local citizens are being threatened by outside anti-base protesters and communist revolutionaries, as well as domestic partisan media organizations.
These groups use the very protections they have to suppress the rights of those whom they oppose.
He is currently out on bail after being arrested for several crimes, such as forcible obstruction of business, interference of public duties, damage to property, trespassing to the U.S. bases and physical violence. He is the very person threatening our rights, which makes his appearance here ironic.
He says that the Japanese government is endangering human rights and freedom of speech. This is not only untrue, but the very fact that someone accused of criminal cases is allowed by the Government of Japan to leave the country and speak at an international body is proof that human rights and freedom of speech are protected and valued in Japan.
I believe in the justice and fairness of the United Nations and trust that you will handle this correctly, understanding the facts in Okinawa and if necessary rebuking him and the activists and biased media for their threatening behavior. On behalf of their victims, I thank you.
Takao Harakawa is a staff writer for the Sankei Shimbun. He is reporting from Geneva.
(Click here to read the article in Japanese)