U.N. special rapporteur challenges Ibuki’s ‘homogenous’ claim

by Eric Johnston

The U.N. special rapporteur on racism countered Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki’s claim over the weekend that Japan is a homogenous country.

“There is no such thing as pure blooded or a pure race. Where do the Ainu fit in to Japanese society? Or the Chinese and Koreans?” Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Japan Times.

“I am absolutely shocked at his remark. Here is the education minister, the person who in charge of educating Japan’s children about their history, saying something that is so outdated.”

Diene is in Tokyo to follow up on last year’s U.N. report on racial discrimination in Japan.

On Sunday, Ibuki told the Liberal Democratic Party’s Nagasaki chapter that Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato — Japanese — race and that Japan is an extremely homogenous country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday defended Ibuki’s comments, which have also drawn criticism from human rights groups.

Abe said he thought there was no problem with Ibuki’s remarks as he believed the education minister was referring to the fact that Japanese have gotten along with each other well so far.

The special rapporteur said Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese history scholars should work together through the United Nations to resolve historical issues.

By doing this, he said, not only historical tensions but also the deeper racism in East Asia that has led to those tensions can be addressed in an atmosphere free from domestic politics.

Diene said Ibuki’s remarks and Abe’s comments about them will likely be included in the new report he will submit to the U.N. later this year.

Amnesty lashes out

Kyodo News

Amnesty International Japan on Tuesday harshly attacked education minister Bunmei Ibuki for saying too much respect for human rights would give Japan “human rights metabolic syndrome.”

In a letter sent to Ibuki, Amnesty demanded he retract his remarks, saying they “ignore the human rights of citizens.”

“It is true that exercising rights carries with it obligations,” the human rights group said. “But it is states and governments which undertake obligations to guarantee citizens their rights.”

Through the remark, Ibuki has neglected his obligations and is trying to restrict human rights, Amnesty said.