Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to cancel his cherry blossom party for 2020 after being criticized for having invited many of his political supporters to the publicly-funded annual event.
The opposition parties have demanded that the two chambers of the National Diet hold budget committee meetings to deliberate the matter in the presence of the Prime Minister. “Now that the Prime Minister has admitted his fault, we will thoroughly inquire into his responsibility,” said Jun Azumi, chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition group.
Media organizations have spent massive time and newspaper space to report the matter. However, if we look closely at the growing East Asian tensions, including the contrasting ways the United States Congress and China have addressed Hong Kong police’s intensifying crackdown on pro-democracy protests, we can clearly see the meaningless level of the discussion in Japan on the cherry blossom party.
Armed Intervention in Hong Kong
On October 15, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bipartisan bill titled the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.” The bill would require the State Department to annually verify whether China complies with the principle of “one state, two systems,” securing Hong Kong’s high-level autonomy.
A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate on November 19 and was signed into law by President Trump on November 27. China has angrily reacted to the move, vowing to take countermeasures.
On November 14, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan advisory body of the U.S. Congress, released its annual report. Among the recommendations this year is that “Congress enact legislation stating that…the special status of Hong Kong [for U.S. preferential treatment]…will be suspended in the event that China’s government deploys People’s Liberation Army or People’s Armed Police forces to engage in armed intervention in Hong Kong.”
Regarding Taiwan, the report urges the U.S. Congress to direct the Department of Defense to prepare a study that would provide the basis for a 15-year plan of action aimed at deterring Beijing from making a military attempt to unify Taiwan with China. It also encourages Congress to enact legislation for increasing military exchanges and training with Taiwan.
The Group of Seven (G7) Western industrial democracies, at an annual summit in August, issued a statement calling for violence to be avoided in countering Hong Kong citizens’ large-scale protest rallies.
China’s Plans to Subdue Hong Kong Protesters
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Brazil for a BRICS summit of top leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, indicated his intention to thoroughly crack down on the Hong Kong protests that he branded as a violent criminal act.
The Global Times, affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party organ People’s Daily, carried an article on November 13 headlined, “To weaken police power is to help rioters,” signaling a forceful action to subdue the Hong Kong protests.
For such action, China could deploy People’s Armed Police forces under the People’s Liberation Army that have been on standby in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, neighboring Hong Kong. On November 16, the Wall Street Journal reported PLA soldiers’ rare appearance outside their barracks in Hong Kong to clear roadblocks and debris left by the protesters, saying it fueled speculation about the PLA’s future role in Hong Kong.
We are limited in time. Japan’s National Diet should discuss — now — what Japan should do to protect human rights and democracy in Hong Kong, and what message Japan should send internationally to deter China’s armed intervention in Hong Kong.
Author: Fumio Ota
Fumio Ota is a senior fellow and a planning committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. He is a retired vice admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.