Citizens demonstrating against the controversial state secrets bill are committing “an act terrorism,” according to Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba.
In a blog post Friday, he wrote: “If you want to realize your ideas and principles, you should follow the democratic principles, by gaining as much support as you can. I think the strategy of merely shouting one’s opinions at the top of one’s lungs is not so fundamentally different from an act of terrorism.”
In a speech Sunday in Toyama Prefecture, Ishiba maintained his criticism of the rallies being held outside the prime minister’s office. More than 1,000 people gathered there last Tuesday when the ruling coalition rammed the state secrets bill through the Lower House.
“It is doubtful if it is in line with democracy to appeal in a threatening manner that ‘We will never accept it,’ ” Ishiba said in his speech.
But he backtracked on likening the demonstrations to terrorism.
“I retract that part as the demonstration does not fulfill all of the conditions necessary to constitute terrorism,” Ishiba told reporters after the speech. “I see the loud noise as a problem. . . . Demonstrations in general should be welcomed as long as they follow democratic rules, regardless of how many people they draw.”
With the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set to pass the bill into law by Friday, when the extraordinary Diet is scheduled to close, the demonstrations outside the prime minister’s office have continued and similar rallies are being held around the country.
Because the bill stipulates that coercing information out of someone with knowledge of state secrets is punishable by up to five years in prison, activists worry it could be used to prosecute people seeking public disclosure of sensitive information. The government has repeatedly denied this is the case and that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, including public demonstrations.
Ishiba’s comments appear to contradict the government’s stance and have given ammunition to the opposition camp, which has already been critical of the various interpretations of the bill expressed by Cabinet ministers.
Akihiro Ohata, secretary-general of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said Sunday during a street speech in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, “It is guaranteed under the Constitution to stage demonstrations,” urging Ishiba “to change his mindset.”
Tadayoshi Ichida, head of the Japanese Communist Party secretariat, told reporters, “It is an unacceptable remark as it declares the people’s voice as terrorism.”
Mizuho Fukushima, deputy chief of the Social Democratic Party, said, “I cannot trust the ruling party, whose member makes such a comment, even if it says it will respect the right to know.”
Information from Kyodo added