South Africa’s ambassador to Japan has sent a letter of protest to the Sankei Shimbun over a column by prominent author Ayako Sono praising the racial segregation of apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy, according to the daily’s publisher.
Sankei Shimbun Co. said that Ambassador Mohau Pheko took aim at the column published in the newspaper’s Wednesday editions, in which Sono wrote that it is better for people of different races to live separately, just as they did under South Africa’s former policy of racial segregation.
In the letter, received Saturday, Pheko was quoted as calling apartheid a crime against humanity that cannot be justified in the 21st century, adding discrimination on the basis of skin color is unacceptable in any country.
Sono, who had served on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s education reform panel in 2013, wrote in her column that, based on her knowledge of the situation in South Africa 20 to 30 years ago, she came to believe that whites, Asians and blacks should live separately.
She made the argument while discussing the need for Japan to accept more immigrants, particularly to care for the increasing elderly population — on condition that immigrants live separately from Japanese.
“Humans can do everything together from business, research to sports. But it is better to separate living quarters,” Sono wrote.
Sono, who has long been an advocate for various conservative causes, has extensive connections to Japanese and international conservative politicians.
Her comments sparked outrage, including on Twitter, where many called them distasteful and shameful, not to mention racist.
Takeshi Kobayashi, an executive of the newspaper, said in a statement Saturday that Sono’s column only reflected her personal view. He said the Sankei has always upheld the position that racial and all other forms of discrimination are intolerable, including apartheid.
The Sankei had earlier defended its decision to run the piece. “This is a regular column of Ayako Sono,” a spokesman for the daily said.
“We carried it . . . as her own opinion. We believe it’s natural that various opinions exist,” the spokesman said.