Japan's secrecy bill condemned by Nobel academics


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They are right.

This is the largest threat to democracy in 70 years.

Abe is taking this country back to the fascism of the pre WWII Japan.

Logic doesn't come into it.

There is no reason for it.

It's not as if there have been ANY leaks like Snowden, Mannings, et al.

I think there should be.

With all this emphasis on secrets, someone sure has something to hide!

18 ( +22 / -4 )

BertieWooster, That the Japanese government, or any other government on the planet, has something to hide is not news. To say this is a threat to democracy strikes me as a bit histrionic. Elections are not being stopped. No one is being sent to the gulag. In fact, the recent protests demonstrate that the opposite is in fact true; peaceful protests, essential to any functioning democracy, have taken place and given that small group of malcontents an outlet for the frustrations they have with their personal lives by allowing them to swing metaphorical swords at windmills. Meanwhile, the government is doing the job it was elected to do, protecting the citizens of its nation from all threats, foreign or domestic.

To say there have not been leaks in Japan misses the point. First, because there have been leaks, and second, because past performance is not an indicator of future success. Japan is taking the steps necessary to defend the methods by which it protects and defends the very democracy that allows this bill to be passed. This is what the Japanese people voted for. This is what the Japanese people wanted. If you have a beef, it seems as though it should be with the electorate, and not with the government, who made it clear before elections that this was on their agenda.

-29 ( +3 / -32 )

The law was just passed. Give it time homleand. Your wished dictatorship might just sprout within Japan's borders.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Homeland, I am afraid your faith in the good intentions of Government is misplaced. If Assange and Snowden have taught us anything, it is that whatever nasty stuff you imagine Government might be doing, they WILL be be doing it - only 10 times worse.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Someone ought to tell Japan that Westernization isn't cool anymore.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

powershallfallDec. 08, 2013 - 08:35AM JST

Someone ought to tell Japan that Westernization isn't cool anymore.

Only commies believe that.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

Only commies believe that.

You'd think commies would be the ones more prone to punishing whistleblowers.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I see a few academics doing something and speaking out directly but where are the rest of the Japanese nation? Are they not incensed by this bill or don't they realise or care? Or worse still, happy with it???

6 ( +8 / -2 )

They want to cover up the nuclear disaster even further, and take Japan back to militarism based on nationalism.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

A democracy gets a government. It deserves. There is no true outrage in Japan. No university students care...Few salarymen (whom I know) no much about it. The only people that appear to car are academic types and older people that know are aware of the true nature of Japan.

4 ( +8 / -4 )


The rest of the Japanese nation are subject to a lingering communitarianism that now amounts to little more than preserving a nebulous notion of 'harmony'.

Alas, that 'harmony' has evolved to mean not questioning business and their public sector lackeys (with such audacious, nonconformist concepts as consumer advocacy, for example).

It is OK to open your neighbor's garbage and bully them over it, while remaining silent on the bosozoku who roar through your streets.

Japanese people are angry - very angry. Unfortunately 'Wa' is now so warped that they have precious little that they can actually (safely) vent over.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Homeland, to a certain degree, I agree with you. I come from a country that has an army, spy apparatus and official secrets laws. So I do not have an "allergy" to much of what Abe is trying to do, on paper at least. The justification that "Japan is just trying to be a normal country" is indeed persuasive.

But then we have to look at the situation on the ground in Japan as laws are actually applied. Let's look at some examples.

Communist activists are arrested and held in jail for weeks for leafleting an apartment complex while rightists are allowed to march through minority areas threatening residents with impunity. Anti-nuclear activists are arrested for taking a short cut through a station. Greenpeace activists are arrested for trying to expose the embezzlement of whale meat while the embezzlers themselves go unpunished. Police officers send innocent people to jail be willfully fabricating evidence but go unpunished (I could give several concrete examples of this - including a case where an officer was found to have drawn a map of a crime scene, attributed it to the suspect, found out and let off with no punishment whatsoever - it was in Toyama, I believe). A well-known and well connected music producer is let off completely after fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars through a copyright scam.

I will stop there for now. But my point is that if you live in Japan, it soon becomes clear that the laws on the books may be rational and sensible but they are by no means applied equally or fairly. There is a clear tendency for those who support government or are otherwise connected to authority to receive lenient treatment and those who oppose it be charged under whatever law can by made to fit. This happens in every country to some degree, but it Japan it is particularly egregious and the media particularly pliant (notwithstanding the Asahi's fine campaign against the secrets law).

And you are happy to give these same authorities (including the police) the authority to designate whatever they want as a secret forever without any independent checks on what those secrets are? Are you sure that's a good idea? You may not know that the new law gives the powers to designate secrets not only to the government but also to the department heads (honbucho) within each local police chapter.

Does that not scare you? Brother, it should!

Secrets laws are in principle a fine idea and required for national security. But you should not uncritically apply this principle to Japan without thinking about how power and authority here is actually exercised, and in whose interests.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

The Japanese are deaf and blind and refuse to do anything that makes it impossible for them to face facts and history. Therefore the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis. Even as the situation worsens by the day not even a whimper until it became more disastrous and unavoidable to report on it and ask for help. The Nanjing Massacre where many Chinese innocent men, women and children were raped and mercilessly and unnecessarily killed. Just change the history books and glorify Japan's right to invade China, Korea, Southeast Asia and to kill. The bombing of Pearl Harbour while lying to the Americans that Japan wanted peace. The circle is now complete. The secret law will guarantee that all news and announcements from the Japanese Government will be lies and untruths as the truth and reality will forever be hidden. The Shinzo Abe Devil has succeeded for now. No more nuclear reactor disasters, no more earthquakes and tsunamis, no ground war radiation, no dumping of radiated water into the Pacific. Abe and the Emperor are consumming Fukushima rice and sake. Abe's failing economic policies are succeeding. Nothing that comes out from Japan from now on should be believed since lies are characteristic of Abe's government.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan's secrecy bill condemned by Nobel academics, also Red China.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Crikey, I didn't say directly that I have faith i the good intentions of government. I was pointing out that this was a democratic process, and it appears to be what the voters want. Several other posters have noted (albeit anecdotally) that they see or hear no one speaking out against the law. This seems a pretty clear sign that the law is not perceived as any sort of threat to democracy. If the voters think it is, next time they will elect a party who promises to repeal the law.

jpn_guy, thank you for your response. I agree that there is uneven application of the law in Japan. Do I think it is considerably worse than in other similar nations? No. I'm not saying two rights make a wrong, but the simple fact is that injustice exists everywhere, and Japan is not at the top of some list of tyrannical states. Lenient treatment of those connected to authority goes on throughout the developed world. I've seen no math proving Japan is beyond one standard deviation in this regard.

It does not scare me personally that a department head at the police station can designate state secrets. I don't think it's a good idea, but I certainly have no reason to be afraid of this myself. In time an overview process will be put in place and the law will be amended, most likely through ministerial "administrative guidance," to reflect usage in practice.

I do think some of your examples stretch credibility, and if I had the time at hand I would proffer better ones to help you make a more solid argument. The Greenpeace case, in particular, does not pass the smell test as being some sort of injustice for anyone familiar with the case.

I could give several concrete examples...

Please do, as this is the only way to clearly demonstrate the argument being put forth.

A well-known and well connected music producer is let off completely after fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars through a copyright scam.

Just so we're clear: Are you implying that judges are told who to let off easy and who to throw the book at? Is it implied that judges have an unspoken understanding not to hand down severe punishments to people with a certain net value? If so, could you explain how the mechanism behind this works, and when and how judges might receive such training or messages? And, how might this be different from, say, the case of Sir Fred Goodwin?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Now they are in the right path to open a branch of Pentagon.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The seeds' of war and repression have been sowed. These ares not the words of a histrionic liberal, but rather a man of Jewish heritage who has seen such "low-key, innocuous" acts in the name of protection of freedom and the homeland go genocidally awry in the dark past.

Japan being essentially a one-party state like China for the last 65 years(or much more) has leaders resorting to the same shenanigans of yore: What you can't have (economic prosperity) through peaceful means becomes a pretense for creating phantom enemies. War - and the endless preparation thereof) - is good business not just for the zaibatsu forces but for the real enforcer and big brother, the good ol' USA.

Taking away liberties is not usually an overnight process. The artful-and-designing LDP has de-fanged all political opposition and now they will muzzle them totally with this new law.

There may be legal responses to this Abe power play (see below), but the legal system has - until this point - been just a rubber-stamp, wimpy estate for nuclear energy, rampant corruption, and illegal acts shirked off as inevitable.

Here is the silver lining in attacking this horrible law in higher courts:

Article 16. Every person shall have the right of peaceful petition for the redress of damage, for the removal of public officials, for the enactment, repeal or amendment of laws, ordinances or regulations and for other matters; nor shall any person be in any way discriminated against for sponsoring such a petition.

Article 17. Every person may sue for redress as provided by law from the State or a public entity, in case he has suffered damage through illegal act of any public official.

Let's hope that a miracle happens: The legal system will give The People a chance to level the playing field against the boorish LDP and their war-mongering, liberty-threatening policies.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

To divulge a state security information to another state is treason. But to have a bill that takes away the citizen's democratic rights is another. Japanese or not, this should not be allowed. Though, on the surface, this issue in Japan is not the same as the heated issue in United States, the right to bear arm. In a way, it is. Both takes away a citizen's democratic rights. For more than twenty years, I grew under a martial law. I could not help see telltale of repression in both countries, going to happen, if people would not stand up for their inherent rights.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'm certain that Nobel laureate Obama supports the bill.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Can anyone tell me: does the information need to be designated a state secret before it is leaked or released? This makes a huge difference. If information made public can be designated a state secret after it is released, then the problem is even bigger than many fear...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"That problem is exacerbated by a relatively weak institutional press." -- a very telling line, in many respects.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Jean ValJeanDEC. 08, 2013 - 11:27AM JST wrote I'm certain that Nobel laureate Obama supports the bi l. ..................................................................................

Notice the headline stated that Nobel academics. Obama received Peace Prize. Masakawa received Physics Shirakawa received Chemistry, They received for their Academis contribution, not Obama - he just received Peace Prize (not academic)/

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


This is typical. Handbags at ten paces in the Diet, a few ( too few ) citizens who actually care and tell Japan to wake up and the vast majority of the population not aware or bothered. I've been here too long to have sympathy for docility, passivity and a willingness to be treated like children. A lost cause.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Homeland, I cannot argue that the LDP won the last election and therefore they are the current Government. Where I do have an issue is that in campaigning in late 2012 we heard plenty about what is now called Abenomics and the Three Pillars. In fact they couldn`t tell us enough information on that.

If my memory serves, we did NOT hear anything about a new secrecy bill. Because the LDP knows that, even in a relatively obedient democracy like Japan, this is still a very sensitive subject. And a public discussion would not have helped the LDP into power. So is this secrecy law the result of a democratic process? I would say no. Legal, yes; democratic, no. It`s been crashed through in to law in 4 weeks. Not enough public engagement, no clarifty on safeguards, supervision etc etc. Its a bad law.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It sounds like some of you don't live in Japan, especially the "[s]everal other posters [who] have noted (albeit anecdotally) that they see or hear no one speaking out against the law. This seems a pretty clear sign that the law is not perceived as any sort of threat to democracy."

In fact, there have been editorials against the bill throughout the past month in the leading daily newspapers, there have been DAILY protests about the bill for at least 2 weeks prior to passage of the bill (I myself participated in one of the larger ones), and something like 2,000 academics -- including constitutional law scholars, media law scholars and others -- have presented petitions against the bill. So has the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the leading lawyers' organization in the country. All of them complain of how it is a threat to democracy, and some even bring up how it will return Japan to the 1930s police state.

As for this law being "what the voters want," nothing permits that inference. Opinion polls are against the bill. The LDP and New Komeito together had only 42% of the votes cast in the 2012 Lower House election, but because of the peculiarities of the proportional representation system -- whose mathematics are entirely under the Diet's control, not the voters' or an independent authority's -- they got 66.4% of the seats. In terms of the percentage of eligible voters, this was about 25% of the electorate. Before you blame citizens for their own apathy, reflect that in order to run for Diet here, you have to put up $30,000 and quit your job. Compare that to $100 if you want to run for Congress from Maryland, or about $1,700 from California, or £750 (about $1,200) if you want to run for Parliament in the UK. Only rich people can run -- there aren't any Jimmy Stewarts in the Diet (unless they're like Jimmy Stewart the rich actor, instead of the characters he played).

As for reading the constitution (Kempou), nice try, but the Japan Supreme Court doesn't do that. The Kempou states that any law or act of the State that is unconstitutional is invalid -- but the Supremes have declared 10 elections unconstitutional (because of flaws in the election law) without invalidating them. The 2012 election that brought Abe into power was even worse, because the election law hadn't been changed since the previous time it was ruled unconstitutional, but the Supremes let that one stand, too. Moreover, the Supremes have always upheld limitations on human rights enacted by the Diet.

I teach in a law faculty in Tokyo. I was pointing out to my students that due to the vagueness of the secrets law, the arrest of political dissidents could be designated as secrets for "anti-terrorism" reasons (or one of the additional reasons that the law leaves "TBD"), meaning that if you disappeared the police could stonewall your family and friends. This is of course what happened in Latin America during the 1970s. I thought I was extrapolating when I taught this, but a few days later, the #2 guy in the LDP, Ishiba Shigeru, wrote on his blog that demonstrating against the anti-secrecy law was terrorist activity.

Anyone who says that calling this bill a threat to democracy is histrionic is 180 degrees mistaken.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Making media as JP Gvmt enemies! Media usually do thier jobs by reporting fact and they don;t behave like they prosecdute or they release from crimes. They stick to credible information, Why JP Govt want more secrecy? Do they have same secrecy like Takeshita resegnation reason? Are they familiar with latest wiretapping technology to nose Govet employees' computer flash memories? maybe they will confisticate flash memory and jail them for 10 years? The taperecording era was over many years ago. Maybe they don;t want public knows how many mekakes they have. Other things are already secret, Himitsu and himitsu already.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Yokoyamacho "I was pointing out to my students that due to the vagueness of the secrets law, the arrest of political dissidents could be designated as secrets for "anti-terrorism" reasons" Yes indeed. This is exactly why I was noting the problem with giving this power to the police. If you don't live in Japan it is difficult to appreciate just how arbitrarily they use their powers of arrest and detention. Trusting them with the ability to designate secrets is just dangerous. A few years back some protesters wanted to march on Abe's residence. Unable to get permission (unlike the Shinokubo rightists) they staged a "walk". Police monitored it heavily eventually going toe to toe with one of the leaders forcing his body to brush theirs, after which he was promptly arrested on charges of "obstructing officials doing their duty".

I predict we will see future cases like this where those detained for spurious legal reasons will sue and the secrets law will be used not necessarily to hide the arrest itself as Yokoyamacho mentions, but to stonewall any such litigation.

Who ordered the arrest? Secret. Where the police acting on government orders? Secret. In fact, it would be a surprise if we did not see the law invoked in litigation where the authorities are the defendant. Officials in Japan can already give false evidence in court with no risk of conviction. The officer in the Toyama assault case I mentioned above who drew a map of a crime scene on behalf of an innocent man to "prove" he was there received no penalty at all. Although officially limited to espionage and military matters, the new law is unlikely to improve this situation, particularly as the definitions of "secret" are so malleable.

Off course, as other posters have noted, if the government go too far they may get voted out, but I am not too optimistic as the lack of political education essentially disenfranchises young voters. Most of the protesters again the bill were old and that is unlikely to change. Low media literacy, low political engagement and a culture of avoiding difficult and complex discussions in polite company mean many people simply cannot see the implications of this legislation.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Abe is the new Hitler. Surely these people who protest that fact and his new Dictatorship know that they can be thrown in jail as 'terrorists'. I'm glad to see them stand up, and especially people of such esteem, but now they have to actually be careful about doing so.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Shigeru Ishiba lost PM selection against Abe. He is a military geek. Abe won PM so he became LDP kanjicho. He used to be Minister of Defence in Fukuda Cabinet. He expertise in weapon system and he is busy to get rid of Abe to become next PM. He is enjoying Abe bashers all over so he knows Abe basher wll not bash hm thus he talk about terrorists and enjoy Abe is blamed for his big mouth. .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Homeland re: your request for concrete examples of police fabricating evidence to send people to jail. I tried to post a list, but it was deleted (quite rightly I guess) for being off-topic. However, please do look up the Kochi Police Motorbike Incident (kochi shirobai jiken) for one example of how police behavior is Japan differs from Western democracies and why Japanese police should not be empowered to designate state secrets.

For those unfamiliar with this, a speeding police motorbike collided with a bus that more than 10 independent witnesses, including a school headmaster, testified was completely stationary at the moment of impact. The judge discounted every last witness statement, including testimony from people actually sat in the bus, in favor of testimony (perjury?) from a police officer who had a vested interest in proving his colleague was not at fault for his own death. The officer alone said the bus was moving. The driver, despite a high-profile campaign protesting his innocence, went to jail and was later arrested again after his release for protesting outside the home of the officer who sent him down.

Sure, other nations have their faults, but an incident as described above simply could not unfold in a Western democracy.

My point is that abuse of authority in Japan is rampant enough already without further ammunition.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Heil Abe and co! Surely these people who protest that fact and his new Dictatorship know that they can be thrown in jail as 'terrorists'. I'm glad to see them stand up, and especially people of such esteem, but now they have to actually be careful about doing so.

toshiko: (re: Ishiba) "...he is busy to get rid of Abe to become next PM. He is enjoying Abe bashers all over so he knows Abe basher wll not bash hm thus he talk about terrorists and enjoy Abe is blamed for his big mouth."

Sadly, I think you are correct in this. The comments DID hurt him somewhat, though.

Moderator: It is offensive for you to liken Abe (or anyone) to Hitler. It shows a complete lack of understanding of history on your part.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

More proof that Japan has never learned from it's past -- or at least its "leaders" have not. Ishiba calls anyone who protests the government going against the people as terrorists, now they can legally be detained as such. These historians and Nobel Prize winners who are rightly decrying the new law had better be careful -- they just might disappear.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Thanks, jpn_guy

Japan's conviction rate of >99% is another reason to be very afraid of this new law:


4 ( +4 / -0 )

Evil power want to use TPP to ripoff japan's utilities and other wealth.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Selection of the Japanese government and the Liberal Democratic Party is right. Don't pass the secrecy of the U.S. Forces to communist influence. This law is required for present Japan.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Between this secrecy bill and the police state that the U.S. is slowly becoming, for American expats it's become a matter of choosing the lesser evil on deciding whether to stay or move back to the states. Tough call.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@genjuro - You voiced my current situation perfectly!

Please stop the world, I want to get off...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is no secret that Japan is a massive leak hole since the inception of its alliance with US. The Russian, Chinese, Koreans and anyone which any sort of interest in US's involvement in Asia can easily get their info in Japan. Which made Japan a paradise for espionage. So naturally, enacting a law that plug the leaks should be encouraged.

However, through all these years, including the Cold War period which no such bill or law had been demanded by US or enacted by Japan, what makes NOW, and through a midnight compromise, as the appropriate time for such enactment?

And while I agree every state should have some degree to privacy and secrets, is there a mandatory timeline for Japan to release such info to the public, much like that of the US where given the passing of certain years, state secrets that will not jeopardize the national security of the nation must be released to the public. Is that such provisions involved? If not, then, such law is no different than a police state where the current holders of power can manipulate and abuse the provisions of such law to achieve their own political and economic gains without reciprocity.

Its a dangerous path Japan is heading because this is nothing like what we have in the states.

There's still such a weakness in the media and freedom of speech in Japan that when it comes to Japan's national security and conservative agendas, the media frequently yield to the gov't and the greater economic power behind the scenes without further reproach. Which unlike the US where the media will get to the bottom of all matters, which often times go against the wishes of the gov't and even national security issues, Japan does not have such balances of powers. That makes this secrecy bill much more potent and destructive.

3 ( +4 / -1 )


It sounds like some of you don't live in Japan

Here's the red herring I was waiting for. This is the first clear sign that someone is losing an argument (and badly) in a discussion concerning Japan - they accuse the other party of not living in Japan. After that will come something along the lines of, "You don't really understand the language."

So, let's try to stick to the issues, which exist in a space irrelevant to and removed from where you or I live, or what work either of us claims to do on the Internet

I think jpn_guy put it best, "[I]f the government go too far they may get voted out."

That's because this is democracy in action.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Let Government to do what Government has to do. I have no problems at all.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Asahi newspaper Dec 7, morning edition (circulation 8 million)

Rush translation of headlines:

Page 1 "Secrecy law passes "coalition forces through bill" - "risk of compromising the people's right to now"

Page 2 "Flawed bill pushed through" "Risk of arrest" "Journalists under suspicion" "Opposition parties fail to take coherent stance" "Independent organizations (to monitor the designation of secrets) thrown in haphazardly at the last minute"

Page 38 "The darkness of war" "(during WWII) citizens spied on each other - it was truly frightening"

Page 39 "Protesters will not give in" "A law full of secrets should not be passed".

"Continuing anger grips the nation" (Accompanies by pictures of protest in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima)

Homeland on JT, morning of Dec 8 "Several other posters have noted that they see or hear no one speaking out against the law. This seems a pretty clear sign that the law is not perceived as any sort of threat to democracy".

"Homeland on JT, morning of Dec 8" "Here's the red herring I was waiting for. This is the first clear sign that someone is losing an argument (and badly) in a discussion concerning Japan - they accuse the other party of not living in Japan."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Slave of the state/emperor??????

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have to quickly join the NSADP (National Socialistic Abe Democratic Party) otherwise i will be in trouble! All my comments about Fukushima are illegal now :o!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But the screcy bill was okayed by the Americans! So thats okay!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

" Notice the headline stated that Nobel academics."

@toshiko, no kidding! Do you think a laureate shouldn't have an input?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Jean: Are you expecting Obama will speak on behalf of which side? He is too busy on his O bamacare problems in USA.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Thanks for your post. It definitely backed up what I was saying. A circulation of 8 million is roughly 6% of Japan's population, so even if every reader of that paper agreed with the editorial in question, we're still looking at a very small percentage of Japan's population.

Let's also keep in mind that the Asahi has a very clear conflict of interest with regards to this issue, enough of a conflict that the source has to be put into question. They perceive their business to be under threat, and thus resort to the sort of language usually reserved for easy scare tactics. Ultimately, however, their own words are what undermine their argument most:

"Opposition parties fail to take coherent stance"

The ruling party is the only coherent party in Japan.

"Independent organizations (to monitor the designation of secrets..."

So there's the oversight I keep hearing doesn't exist.

The darkness of war" "(during WWII)

WWII ended 68 years ago. Any such comparisons are histrionic, to put it mildly.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Now there will be more people seeking for asylum in Moscow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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