Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts


Japan came under pressure at a U.N. meeting Tuesday to do more to help stop hate speech that promotes discrimination by race or nationality.

“According to information we received, there have been more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches in 2013, mainly in Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” Yuval Shany from Israel, one of the experts at the U.N. Human Rights Committee, said at the meeting in Geneva.

Shany asked Japan whether it is considering adopting legislation to address hate and racist speech.

Existing laws in Japan do not allow police to intervene to stop hate speech demonstrations, Shany said at the meeting held to review the civil and political rights situation in Japan.

“It seems almost nothing has been done by the government to react to Japanese-only signs which have been posted in a number of places,” Shany said.

Another committee member, Zonke Majodina from South Africa, asked if Japan has “plans to enact a national anti-discrimination law, for direct and indirect discrimination, applying to both public and private sectors, complying with international standards and ensuring equal protection to everyone.”

Elsewhere in the meeting, committee members questioned whether human rights are protected in Japan under the country’s capital punishment system, as well as its system designed to provide equal employment opportunities for men and women.

The review is scheduled to continue into Wednesday when it is expected to cover the issue of “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.

This is the committee’s first review of Japan in six years. The committee is set to announce recommendations for improvement on July 24.

  • Kim

    I cannot believe that Japan tries to take more active role in the international community while its government and people are so indifferent to the hate speech against foreigners in Japan that often results in violence.

    • Iain Macpherson

      It does not often result in violence. So Japan should just ignore these demands from supposed representatives of the outside world to conform with their ideological expectations.

      • warota

        > It does not often result in violence.

        That doesn’t sound as comforting as you might think.

        > So Japan should just ignore these demands from supposed representatives
        of the outside world to conform with their ideological expectations.

        Are you saying that you’re against advocacy for allowing people to live their lives without having to be marginalized / harassed by members of a majority group in their host counrty? That this is somehow a trivial ideological expectation?

      • Iain Macpherson

        I’m for fighting ‘hate speech’ w persuasion and morals suasion. And anti-noise laws, when these demonstrations clearly Interfere with peoples’ work life, sleep cycles, etc. which, as you point out, they often aim to do.

      • Kochigachi

        That won’t change enough, what you need to do is strongly voice out otherwise they won’t even take notice.

      • Iain Macpherson

        Strongly ‘voicing out’ is one thing – it’s moral suasion/persusasion. Codifying your perspective in hate-speech laws censoring someone else’s articulation of perspective is another thing. A bad thing.

      • warota

        > I’m for fighting ‘hate speech’ w persuasion and morals suasion.

        Sorry, I don’t quite understand what you’re trying to say here?

        > And anti-noise laws, when these demonstrations clearly Interfere with peoples’ work life, sleep cycles, etc. which, as you point out, they often aim to do.

        OK. So it seems you agree these demonstrations are harmful and shouldn’t be treated as proper exercising of freedom of speech?

      • Iain Macpherson

        I’ll attempt a re-explanation: I’m opposed to an expansion in codified hate speech laws. In nearly every case, bad ideas should be fought with better ideas (persuasion, moral suasion) not censorship. In many ways at least, Japan protects free speech more robustly than most western countries do. That’s a very good thing, and Japan should not change it.

        Anti-whoever demonstrations should not be allowed to interfere with people, especially but not only the targeted demographic, from carrying on with their daily lives, beyond a minimal level. This is where ‘noise’ or ‘privacy’ laws could come into play against these idiot demonstrators – without the use of censorship such as the UN-urged ‘hate speech’ laws.

      • Kochigachi

        That sound exactly what these hate speech organizers have been whining.

  • Steve Jackman

    The UN also needs to put pressure on Japan to end deeply entrenched racism, discrimination and denial of due process to foreign residents of Japan within its judicial system for civil and criminal cases.

    The way things currently stand in Japan, its judicial system denies justice and due process to foreign residents of Japan. Japanese judges and lawyers have no qualms about acting illegally and unethically in violating Japanese laws, case precedent and court rules in doing their utmost to deny fair and equal treatment under the law to foreign residents of Japan.

    • Iain Macpherson

      Japan should tell the UN to go pound salt. No to One World Order.

      • warota

        And Japan is free to do so as it is also free to accept the criticism and consequences for doing so.

      • Iain Macpherson

        You had me until invoking the ‘consequeneces'(!) for defying the One World Order thingie.

      • warota

        What are you trying to say when you refer to the UN as a “One World Order thingie”?

      • Iain Macpherson

        That it sucks in cases like this, where it’s trying to pressure member states to adopt the same normative/moral/cultural legal framework for ordering social relations.

      • Kochigachi

        Is that mean Chinese and Koreans can stage same kind of protests at their home country ? After all, it’s fair isn’t it? I thought Japanese don’t like Koreans being anti-Japan when it’s perfectly okay with anti-Korea in Japan. Koreans have same rights to do so.

      • Iain Macpherson

        They can and do. A damn sight more vociferously and dangerously too, at least in the case of Chinese anti-Japanese demonstrations.

      • Kochigachi

        Japan is also member of UN FYI.

      • Iain Macpherson

        So is everyone (except, I think, Kosovo, Taiwan, and the Vatican). That’s why it’s so often borderline meaningless, and so often worse.

  • phu

    The last thing we need anywhere in the world is more laws stifling freedom of expression.

    You can quantify the negative effects of discrimination in areas such as employment, and many places already have anti-stalking/harassment laws in place (though enforcement is a different matter). In cases like that, when “hate speech” moves on to something that actually endangers people or violates their rights, then it’s a crime and something that needs to be addressed.

    Up to that point, though, saying offensive things — racist, sexist, whatever — is just speech. It’s usually unpopular speech, and while it’s a stretch to put it in the same camp as less vitriolic minority opinions, opening up the floodgates to legislation that limits what you can say based on whether someone else dislikes it moves us further down a dangerous road we’re already on, where people are rightfully more and more afraid to say anything subversive or unpopular for fear of being persecuted for their beliefs.

    When you say offensive things, you pay for it by offending people. Sometimes that’s a trade you’re willing to make to get your point across, but whether you’re fine with the consequences or not, there ARE already social consequences (in the case of these racist demonstrations, the consequences are that any rational person who sees you taking part in them now knows that you are a bigot and likely a moron). If a demonstration gets violent or otherwise interferes with people’s lives, then it’s time to step in. Until then, though, let people talk; it’s a right they should have, whether they have anything useful to say or not.

    • Demosthenes

      This is true. I deplore hate speech and bigotry (especially when members of a dominant group bully those of in a minority), but I think people should just vote with their feet or pursue other methods to gain support against it – like shaming the perpetrators via YouTube or other media. If I was in Tokyo and saw these hate groups, I’d be uploading them to YouTube regularly and letting the world see their shameful acts.

      • warota

        The groups that do hold these demonstrations film and upload it themselves to promote their cause. There’s no shortage of film from both sides for these sorts of demonstrations. But yet demonstrations are held within the commercial and residential areas of where the targets of these groups live and work with full police escort. Public shaming only serves to increase awareness which the UN is starting to speak up more about with regards to Japan. The crucial part now is whether that increased awareness can now spur actual action.

        Meanwhile, the people most affected are forced to tolerate this sort of treatment where they live and work in the name of “freedom of speech” with apparently little recourse. My personal opinion is that these sorts of demonstrations cross the boundary from freedom of speech to public nuisance and harassment as it should be should their targets stage a similar demonstrations in their own residential / commercial neighborhoods.

        If these groups want to make a political statement, they have other available channels and places to do so and some have. But these demonstrations are more for letting disenfranchised / power hungry types to vent at socially weak minorities in the physical realm where their targets live and work. That they are racially motivated makes them all the more unacceptable especially as we approach the 2020 Olympic Games.

      • Kochigachi

        Except these videos are all in Japanese only so non-Japanese person won’t get the message, it seems these hate speech groups don’t want westerners to know about their existence as they’re only aiming at Chinese & Koreans just to make them feel uncomfortable and upset.

      • warota

        Good point. Perhaps there should be a translation effort for these videos into English.

    • warota

      The problem is that some of these demonstrations do interfere with people’s lives as they’re done right in the residential neighborhoods of where their targets live (Shin Okubo, Tsuruhashi etc.). Yet these demonstrations still receive full police escort.

      Perhaps a similar counterdemonstration in their own residential neighborhoods should be allowed so that equality of freedom of speech rights can be maintained?

      • phu

        That’s my point: When you start interfering with lives, then something needs to be done, because it’s gone beyond freedom of speech and into infringing on the rights of others. It’s not the speech that’s the problem in your example (or in the examples presented in the article), it’s the associated actions; conflating the two results in the wrong legislation and an unnecessary further mutilation of our rights.

  • Iain Macpherson

    For sure, there is a hypocrisy in play, with Abe’s government seeking to restrict free speech under the guise of anti-secrecy laws, but not cracking down on ‘hate speech’ (not to mention anime/manga ‘kiddy porn’). But the problem here is that there should be more speech – including by journalists critiquing the government – not less.