Foreign workers protest against Ishihara’s racist remarks

A group of foreign workers in the metropolitan area on Thursday staged a sit-in to protest at Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s recent remarks that foreigners who had illegally entered Japan may riot following a major earthquake.

Twenty-three workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran and India participated in the protest in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office and submitted a statement demanding an apology from Ishihara.

The governor has made a series of remarks since Sunday stating that more and more illegal foreigners are engaging in atrocious crimes and might riot in the event of a major earthquake.

“The head of the local government is responsible for protecting foreign residents, whether legal or not, from natural disasters,” the statement says.

“I’ve been working hard in Japan,” said a member of the Asian People’s Friendship Society, who identified himself only as Alam. “It’s wrong to lump all foreigners together as if we either are — or are ready to become — criminals,” said the Bangladeshi, who has been living in Japan for 12 years and has overstayed his visa.

APFS is a nonprofit support organization for foreign workers from 11 countries, regardless of their visa status.

“It’s true that both overstaying your visa and entering the country illegally are crimes,” APFS representative Katsuo Yoshinari told reporters. “But the question is whether or not you prejudge these people as potentially atrocious criminals.”

The Pakistan Embassy also joined the fray Thursday to protest the comment Ishihara made on Wednesday that Pakistanis are “vendors of illegal China-made drugs” in Tokyo’s Kabukicho district.

The embassy issued a statement charging that the governor’s comments “could cause disaffection among the Japanese public about Pakistanis and unfortunately disturb good-will in community relations.”

Kono slams Ishihara

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono assured South Korea on Thursday that he finds Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s remarks on illegal foreigners in Japan objectionable, a Foreign Ministry official said.

“The remarks were inappropriate,” Kono was quoted as telling South Korean Ambassador to Japan Choi Sang Yong, who paid Kono a 15-minute courtesy call.

Choi did not comment on Ishihara’s remarks but expressed a wish to see the governor again to “make friends” as he has previously met him in Seoul, the official said.

Kono also explained his testimony earlier in the day to the House of Councilors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.

At the meeting, Kono promised to consider demands by some panel members that he urge Ishihara to apologize and retract the remarks.

“People have been hurt by these remarks and neighboring countries have also criticized them,” Kono told the committee. “I feel the remarks are quite regrettable.”