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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | For Japan’s Pathetic Human Rights Resolution, Blame the Ruling Party

What’s keeping Prime Minister Kishida and the Liberal Democratic Party from expressly condemning China’s human rights violations?

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, shown here in the lower house of the National Diet, needs to take leadership in passing a strong resolution that clearly states Japan's embracing of the universal values of human rights.

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On February 1, the National Diet is expected to adopt a resolution condemning the Chinese government’s human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and other areas. 

Although it is important for the Diet to declare its intentions before the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 4, serious issues with the content of the resolution could raise doubts about the will of the nation and the resolve of the ruling party. 

When the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito Party held discussions about revising the draft resolution at the end of 2021, the word “condemn” was removed from the original draft, and the phrase “human rights violations” was replaced by “human rights situation.” The word “China” is also missing from the text. 

This is a stark contrast to the resolution adopted on January 20 by France’s National Assembly, which accuses China of committing genocide in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Human Rights leaders opposed to Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities meet in Ginza, Tokyo, in February 2021

In Japan, the adoption of the Human Rights Resolution was postponed twice in 2021 because the LDP and the Komeito Party both expressed disapproval. 

At a plenary session of the House of Representatives on January 20, 2022, Nobuyuki Baba, co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), criticized the draft resolution for being “a watered-down resolution that cannot be called a condemnation of China.” He further described the response of the LDP executive committee as being “obsequious towards the Chinese government” and “outrageous.”

Conversely, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “It is important that universal values, including human rights, be guaranteed in China.” But he went no further than to say, “The adoption of the resolution should be discussed in the Diet.”

Perhaps PM Kishida had forgotten that he was responsible for the party’s discussions as the president of the LDP. 

Mr. Kishida had postponed his decision to launch a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, repeatedly claiming that he was “considering Japan’s national interest.” 

Then, when the Prime Minister finally decided not to send a government delegation to the Beijing Olympics, it was with the proviso that he would not call it a “diplomatic boycott.” But such a move is meaningless without the clear expression of protest. 

The same applies to the wording of the Human Rights Resolution, whose purpose is to condemn. If it is not made clear which country and what specific actions of that country are being condemned, the resolution will not have an effect on its target.

Last June, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution condemning the military coup in Myanmar with explicit mention of the violence against civilians by the national army and police.

It would be pathetic if Japan is willing to speak out against the perpetrator when it is a small country, but not when it is a major power.

National interest does not only mean economic gains and losses. Nothing can be more damaging to Japan’s national interest than being regarded as a country that does not have the resolve to uphold human rights, a universal value of all democracies. 

The wording of the draft resolution must be reconsidered.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun