The Lower House of Representatives passed on May 23 the government’s Revised Organized Crime Punishment Law, which includes the provision of a new “anti-terror law,” with members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito Party providing the majority vote.
Opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), lost no time calling the Anti-Terror Law the “Anti-Conspiracy” law. They said, “It violates the freedom of everyday people,” and “We’ll become a surveillance society.”
Is this history repeating itself? There are numerous examples of laws—now accepted and established—over which opposition parties and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper initially fanned the flames of uncertainty. They included the Japan-US Security Treaty and the United Nations Peacekeeping Operation Act (PKO).
In October 1958, the Cabinet of Nobusuke Kishi submitted a Law Enforcement Act Amendment to Parliament. The purpose of the law was to strengthen the authority of police officers to ask questions and search belongings, with the aim of maintaining order ahead of the US-Japan Security Treaty Revision. An example provision was, “In the event that a suspicious individual is carrying a weapon, to be able to submit that it be placed in temporary storage.”
The Socialist Party and “citizens” vehemently protested, and in the process politicized the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty. They called it “the worst law of the century” and “unconstitutional.” They even formed the “National Meeting Against the Revision of the Law Enforcement Act,” and used slogans such as, “Law Enforcement Act Bans Dating” and “Police to Target Honeymooners.” These incited fear in citizens, and the revision was defeated.
Unrestrained and abusive use of police investigative authority is unacceptable. However, lost in all the name-calling was the chance to have a sensible discussion on the ability of the police to confirm whether a suspicious person has a weapon, and to ask for said weapon to be handed over as “necessary to preserve law and order.”
The event that triggered the resignation of the Kishi Cabinet was the 1960 Security War, against the US-Japan Security Treaty Revision, involving large-scale demonstrations that surrounded the Parliament and turned violent at times. Yet, in 1993, the Socialist Party, which had been at the heart of the opposition, participated in a coalition government of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa. Then, in 1994, it took the leap to form a coalition with the LDP, promptly endorsing the US-Japan Security Treaty Revision with the appointment of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.
While various issues remain, such as the topic of military bases, the only party that still calls for the abolishment of the Security Treaty is the Japanese Communist Party. Moreover, the Socialist Party changed its name to the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ) and is now in a slump with just four representatives in the House.
The Socialist Party used stonewalling tactics and late night sittings to resist the June 1992 establishment of the PKO cooperative law, permitting the Self Defense Forces (SDF) to be posted overseas. They even resorted to trickery, having all their representatives handing in their resignation. In this, too, they changed their position to supporting the PKO, when given the chance to participate in government.
The Asahi Shimbun also opposed the PKO cooperative law. However, its position changed in a 2002 editorial. In May 2005, its editorial chief explained it this way: “The world situation has greatly changed. The sentiment of the nation has changed from one of hiding in our peaceful home to one of heading out to build peace. In light of the solid work done by the PKO, from the September 2002 editorial, we have changed our position to argue that the SDF should participate.”
Although views differ regarding the destination and form of their involvement in PKO, opposition to the PKO itself is currently not found among political parties or the major media outlets.
Even in the case of the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets Act, which allows the government to classify information pertaining to ensuring the safety of citizens, the DPJ and the JCP joined citizens’ groups in protesting. They claimed that it was the “National Crackdown Law.” However, now that the DPJ has been reincarnated as the Democratic Party (DP), it seldom makes mention of the law, and is currently not offering an opposing proposal.
Fresh in the memory is the fear mongering, “It will lead to conscription” and “War Law” carried out by the DPJ and JCP surrounding the enactment in September 2015 of the Peace and Security Law. The law allows for the limited use of the SDF in conjunction with other armed forces.
Renho, leader of the DP, argued, “The unconstitutional nature still remains.” However, given the lessons of the past, it is not difficult to imagine former protesters becoming supporters. As such, the current, “anti-conspiracy” protests are nothing more than “criticism for the sake of criticism.”
Mitsuru Sakai is a political staff writer of the Sankei Shimbun
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)