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April 24, 2000

ISHIHARA Shintaro
Governor of Tokyo
 
 

Joint Statement by Scholars Demanding the Retraction of
Governor Ishihara's Remarks Viewing Undocumented Foreigners as Dangerous

Since his remark on April 9 indicating the possibility that "many sangokujin who entered Japan illegally" would riot in the aftermath of natural disasters, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has repeatedly emphasized the negative impact of undocumented (fuho-taizai) foreigners on public security.  We, as scholars who have conducted research in problems facing foreigners, hereby take exception to his remarks, particularly on the following two grounds.

First, we protest against Governor Ishihara's use of the term sangokujin, literally "people from third countries."  The Governor cited the Daijirin Japanese dictionary that gives two usages of the word: (1) persons who do not belong to the countries concerned (the ordinary usage), and (2) a common reference to Koreans and the Chinese in Japan during the postwar years (the historical usage).  The Governor claimed he used the term in its first meaning.  His remarks, however, have no reference to any country other than Japan that is not related to the "illegally- entered" foreigners of concern. (In other words, who are the "countries concerned"?) He therefore obviously used the word in its second meaning.  The Governor then referred to the Daijirin dictionary, saying that it was not a derogatory term but a common one.  This understanding ignores the fact that sangokujin was used in a discriminatory manner against Koreans and Chinese in the immediate postwar years.  With or without the qualifier "illegally-entered," no reasonable person could dispute that a public figure like the Governor of Tokyo should refrain from using such a term in public.  In a response document issued on April 19 to the Democratic Party of the Metropolitan Assembly, the Governor admitted for the first time that sangokujin used to be "used in a discriminatory manner."  Yet for the preceding ten days, he frequently appeared in both Japanese and foreign media justifying his usage of the term, insulting foreigners in Japan time and again. Instead of admitting his fault in a document addressed to just one political party, we urge that the Governor make a public apology to foreigners in Japan.

Second, we protest against his remarks since April 9 in which he has emphasized that many undocumented foreigners commit violent crimes and that they could be expected to riot in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.  Governor Ishihara very often uses the term "illegal" (fuho), as in "illegal entrants" (fuho nyukokusha) and "illegal stayers" (fuho taizaisha). The term "illegal" in these cases, however, refers to violation of the immigration control law.  It should not be treated on a par with criminal offenses, let alone violent crimes. The Police White Paper 1999, entitled "The Fight against Transnational Crimes," focuses on the growth of organized and transnational criminal activities, and states that "a large number of illegally-staying foreigners form a hotbed of crime."  In a similar vein, the Governor has insisted that "illegally-staying" foreigners are a major obstacle to the maintenance of public security.  According to the same Police White Paper, however, the total of "newcomer" foreigners who were arrested for violent crimes in 1998 stood at 251, of which 137 persons were "illegally-staying" foreigners.  This latter figure accounts for just 2% of all violent criminals including Japanese nationals.  When compared with the 1993 figure, the number of violent criminals apprehended in 1998 increased by more than 30% for all of Japan, whereas that for "illegally-staying" foreigners showed no major change.  To be sure, an increasing number of "illegally-staying" foreigners have been apprehended for violent crimes in Tokyo in the past two years.  This is nothing extraordinary, however, given the upward trend in the number of Japanese violent criminals. Many of the mass media have uncritically reported the Governor's claim that "crimes committed by foreigners are increasing."  This tendency has been particularly true of television reports.  The mass media have the responsibility to report the problem of undocumented foreigners from diverse perspectives and to prevent the formation of a fixed and distorted image of these people.  The media must report views both in support of and opposing Governor Ishihara's remarks in a fair manner, thereby ensuring citizens the access to materials that would allow judgements on their own.

A large section of "illegally-staying" foreigners in Japan consists of overstayers ("illegally-remaining foreigners").  Their number began to increase sharply in the latter half of the 1980s, due to the labor shortage amidst the economic boom.  Since the peak in 1993 at approximately 300,000, their number has gradually decreased.  Many studies have shown that these people have diligently labored in a working environment often shunned by the Japanese and have already been integrated into local communities.  From around 1990, an increasing number of overstayers have married Japanese.  On the ground that they have established their life in Japanese society, the Justice Minister has granted a regular visa status (a special permit to stay) to those overstayers, albeit as an exceptional measure.  In February this year, the Minister furthermore regularized the legal status of families consisting only of foreign nationals, on the ground that children in those families attended Japanese schools.  Even though these foreigners had violated the immigration control law, the decision to legalize their status was made based on the overall evaluation of their situations and in view of humanitarian considerations and human rights.  Many countries have implemented programs to regularize the legal status of undocumented foreigners who meet certain conditions.  Viewing undocumented foreigners simplistically as dangerous would make little contribution to solving the "illegal-stay" problem.

It is understandable that Governor Ishihara, occupying the highest office in the metropolitan Tokyo, should be strongly concerned with the maintenance of public security of the city.  We also acknowledge the importance of the efforts by the law enforcement authority to control transnational organizational crimes.  At the same time, however, we believe it is utterly unwarranted that the top executive of Tokyo, a city aiming "to make local communities open to foreigners," should unilaterally declare undocumented foreigners to be criminals and to foster unnecessary fear among the residents of Tokyo.  The Governor's remarks likely constitute an infringement of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which stipulates that the signatories "shall not permit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination."  As a result of the Governor's remarks this time, many of the undocumented foreigners, who are already in a vulnerable position, will experience greater social marginalization and, in the event of natural disasters, might be isolated from the rest of the communities.  Given the past record of the massacre of Koreans and Chinese in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake, the Japanese have the historical responsibility to give special considerations to the safety of foreigners once a major natural disaster occurs, and the Governor of Tokyo without doubt has the responsibility to secure the safety of foreign residents in Tokyo and to protect their human rights.

With aging coupled with the declining birth rate in Japanese society, and as the trend toward globalization continues, the number of foreign residents in Japan is anticipated to increase greatly.  It is one of the most important challenges in the 21st century for Japan to construct a society in which Japanese and foreign residents live together and work together.  Aiming to create such a society, the Tokyo Metropolitan government has run a variety of "internationalization" programs since 1995, in cooperation with citizens' groups.  The Tokyo Foreign Advisory Council, established in 1997, provides a mechanism for reflecting the voices of resident foreigners in policy-making processes and has compiled policy proposals for the government of Tokyo.  The Governor's remarks are destructive to all these efforts that have been made in Tokyo as well as in many other parts of the country.

In view of the above, we strongly demand that Governor Ishihara promptly withdraw the series of his recent remarks and apologize to foreigners in Japan, particularly to foreign citizens of Tokyo.

CHIBA Tatsuya (Tsuru Bunka University), Wayne CORNELIUS (University of California), EBASHI Takashi (Hosei University), FUKUOKA Yasunori (Saitama University), HAGINO Yoshio (Kanto Gakuin University), HAGIWARA Shigeo (Institute for Socioeconomic Infrastructure & Services), HATSUSE Ryuhei (Kobe University), HIGUCHI Naoto (The University of Tokushima), HIGUCHI Rika (Kyushu International University), HIRANO OHARA Yuko (Kyushu University), IKEGAMI Shigehiro (Shizuoka Kenritsu University), INABA Nanako (Ibaraki Univesrity), ISHIDA Takeshi, ISHII Yuka (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University), ISHIKAWA Eunice Akemi (Kagoshima International University), ITO Ruri (Ochanomizu University), IYOTANI Toshio (Hitotsubashi University), KAJITA Takamichi (Hitotsubashi University), KASHIWAZAKI Chikako (Sophia University), KAWAMURA Chizuko (Institute for Multicultural Education), KOMAI Hiroshi (Tsukuba University), KONDO Atsushi (Kyushu Sangyo University), MIYAJIMA Takashi (Rikkyo University), MIZUNO Naoki (Kyoto University), NAKAZAWA Hideo (Sapporo Gakuin University), OKAZAKI Katsuhiko (Shimane University), Glenda ROBERTS (Waseda University), SADAMATSU Aya (Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin University), SAKUMA Kosei (Tokyo Womanfs Christian University), Eika TAI (University of North Carolina), TANAKA Hiroshi (Ryukoku University), TAKITA Sachiko (Yokohama City University), WATADO Ichiro (Meisei University), YAMAMOTO Kahoruko (Tokyo Metropolitan University), YAMAWAKI Keizo (Meiji University)
 
 

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