FUKUOKA – Fukuoka prefectural authorities are asking homeless people to stay out of a park in the prefectural capital where a dinner of Group of Seven financial officials is scheduled to take place next month, supporters for the homeless said Sunday.
The dinner is scheduled to be held in a building in Ohori Park, where nearly two dozen homeless people are believed to live. The event will precede the July 8 meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers here.
Workers from Fukuoka Prefecture’s parks and streets department have gone to the park to ask the homeless to leave during the G7 meeting and to take their belongings with them.
“We have asked all the homeless people in the park to leave so as not to cause disruptions during the finance meeting,” said a department official. “We also want them to take their belongings and remove their shelters.”
However, some advocates of the homeless are critical of the move. The prefecture, they say, should have taken constructive measures to solve the homeless situation long ago rather than simply asking people to disappear just for the meeting.
Some also say the G7 financial chiefs should be given the chance to see some of Fukuoka’s homeless population.
The finance ministers and central bank chiefs from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States will meet in Fukuoka ahead of the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa Prefecture on July 21-23. The G8 is the G7 plus Russia.
A homeless support group called Fukuoka Onigiri no Kai estimates that around 20 people were living in the park as of the start of this month. A further 30 or so are believed to be inhabiting the adjacent Maizuru Park.
Many of the inhabitants of the park, located about 1.5 km from the center of downtown Fukuoka, sleep under arbors and in shelters they have constructed.
Some say they are not happy with being told to leave.
“Even if I am chased out, I still won’t have anywhere to go,” one said.
Several have apparently complied with a request to vacate the area around the Nogakudo, a Noh theater where the G7 officials are scheduled to view a performance on the day of the dinner.
There have also been cases in which of some of the people have been told that the park office will hold their belongings during the G7 meetings and return them afterward.
The prefectural official said the department did not rule out resorting to force if the homeless refuse to leave.
“We are not thinking of forced evictions at the current stage,” the official said. “However, since we do not know how the situation will develop, we are monitoring the situation to consider our options.”
Air base peace walk
NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) About 100 Okinawa residents on Sunday participated in a “Peace Walk” around the U.S. Air Force Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, southwestern Japan, ahead of next month’s Group of Eight summit.
Participants separated into two groups and started walking roughly 8- and 9-km courses from the No. 4 gate of the base in Kadena, central Okinawa.
“We must make the coming 21st century an ideal century without any war by raising our voices that we do not need military bases,” Tsutomu Tamaki, chairman of the Okinawa prefectural employees’ union, said in a speech before the walk.
Sponsored by the union, the walk was held prior to an event planned for July 20 in which peace activists and groups opposed to the U.S. military bases on the island will surround the Kadena base in a human chain of more than 25,000 people. Kadena is the largest U.S. military base in the East Asia.
The July 20 event takes place a day before leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States assemble in the northern Okinawan city of Nago for a three-day summit.
Officials of the steering committee for the Kadena human chain event said they aim at letting the world know about the existence of the huge U.S. military bases in Japan’s southernmost prefecture and Okinawa people’s calls for peace.