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[Speaking Out] Japanese Lawmakers Won’t Tolerate Human Rights Abuse in China




The international community, especially Western countries, are casting a stern eye on the suppression of Tibetan and Uyghur human rights in China, the world’s second largest military and economic power.


On December 3, the United States House of Representatives voted 407-1 to pass the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act that urges President Donald Trump and his administration to respond sternly to Chinese authorities that crack down on the Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.


The bill points out that Chinese authorities have stepped-up a crackdown in the region. It urges President Trump to condemn the action and demand that China immediately shut down the internment camps, which China refers to as “reeducation facilities.” The bill has now been sent back to the Senate.



President Trump has yet to specify whether he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk. Given that his decision would exert great influence on the international community, I hope that the President will sign it.



China Attempted to Interrupt World Uyghur Congress in Tokyo


I am a member of the Japan-Uyghur Parliamentary League, which was launched by Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers in 2012, when the Fourth World Uyghur Congress took place in Tokyo. The league now has 30 members.


At the time, the then-Chinese ambassador in Tokyo sent letters to more than 100 National Diet members in both the ruling and opposition camps, warning that Japan’s safety would be put at risk if the World Uyghur Congress was allowed to open in Japan. LDP lawmakers called a press conference to protest the warning.



Lawmakers also sent the Chinese ambassador a protest letter, stating, “We would continue to act according to Japanese National Diet members’ common wisdom.” We would like China to behave like a mature country that has a great regard for the international community’s values of freedom, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.



Justifiable Humanitarian Intervention


Nearly 20 years ago, I visited Kashgar, Urumqi, Turpan, and other places in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. They were charming locations that featured the gentle people and the beauty of Islamic spiritual culture, songs, dances, prayers, and livelihoods. 


Now, more than one million Uyghurs in the region reportedly have been detained, tortured, and deprived of their religion, culture, and history in internment camps. The detainment has come under harsh fire from the international community.



China has insisted that the detainment is an internal problem. At a press conference in Beijing on December 9, Shohrat Zakir, the chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, asserted that the international community’s criticism of the detainment amounted to a blatant intervention in China’s domestic affairs. 


Is this true? The international common wisdom is that the international community should humanely intervene in cases of human rights abuse if it reaches a critical level that shocks the human conscience.


The international environment surrounding Japan is plagued with an unprecedented sense of tension. Under a firm belief that any human rights abuse should not be tolerated, my colleague lawmakers and I would like to forge ahead as “one team.”


A version of this article was first published by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, Speaking Out #641, on December 12, 2019.



Author: Eriko Yamatani


Eriko Yamatani is a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker in the House of Councilors and former cabinet minister delegated as the chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission.


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