Public protests continue against state secrets bill

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

With the contentious state secrets bill slated to clear the Upper House this week, citizens have been holding daily protests in front of the Diet building, denouncing the law as emblematic of the “rise of fascism.”

About 40 people took part in a boisterous protest Tuesday afternoon criticizing the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and its attempt to railroad the bill through the Diet.

Some held up signs that described the bill as “Japan’s embarrassment,” while others called for the resignation of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, who likened their protest activities to an “act of terrorism” on his blog Sunday.

Kumiko Inoue, 65, a regular participant in the protests, said she is worried that the bill’s vague phraseology will essentially allow the government to choose at will what it wants to deem state secrets.

The bill subjects leakers of what it classifies as state secrets in areas such as defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism, to prison terms of up to 10 years.

Inoue expressed concern that the bill, if abused, might effectively deem activities, including protests, as “terrorism.”

“The bill perhaps wouldn’t affect your life if you’re just going to spend your days watching TV or something,” she said. “But suppose you’ve suddenly become a vaccine victim and want to protest the way the government handles your claim. Chances are it will say your protest activity is equal to terrorism and quash it.”

Teens hurt or disabled by cervical cancer vaccines have waged a campaign to halt the state-subsidized immunization program.

Inoue also voiced concern that young people are apparently unfazed by the government’s forceful passage of the bill, or worse, even supportive of it.

She noted a recent online survey by the popular Nico Nico Douga video-sharing site that showed the largest percentage of its users, mostly young, back the bill’s passage at 36.6 percent.

“So basically they’re turning into a strong constituent of the Abe government,” Inoue said, speculating Abe’s well-known hawkishness resonates with them. “I want them to realize the bill will endanger their futures.”

University student Wakako Fukuda, 19, echoed this view, saying few of her friends even know what’s happening with the bill. “The bill might create a society where we’ll have to live without being allowed to know what we want to know. How could we live in such a society?”

Atsuko Ikegami, 45, also decried what she viewed as the state tightening its grip on citizen access to critical information, including about nuclear crises.

Ikegami said she was pleased to see the large number of loud protests led by nuclear foes that took place nationwide after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear catastrophe started in 2011. But the bill, if passed, could quash the nascent rise in social activism.

“When those (anti-nuclear) rallies happened, I thought, ‘Well, the Japanese people finally learned to stand up and make their voice heard,’ ” Ikegami said. “But the bill could subject these activists to constant spying by the state. I’m afraid that could make people slip back into complacency.”