More than 1,200 protesters gathered outside the Diet building Thursday in a last-ditch effort to thwart the controversial state secrets bill, which the Diet is expected to pass Friday.

Opponents of the bill argue it gives the government too much authority to designate and conceal state secrets.

A 36-year-old housewife, who declined to be named, criticized the law as a sign that Japan is sliding back into its prewar militarism, citing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resolve to revise the pacifist Constitution and assert the right to collective self-defense.

“As a mother of two, I can only hope their futures will be bright,” she said. “This law could give the government a perfect excuse to hide the whole process of its preparation for a war.”

Many at the protest echoed this fear of rearmament. Yoko Suzuki, a 36-year-old from Kumamoto Prefecture, said she had come all the way to Tokyo just to join the rally. “I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing,” Suzuki, who is also a vocal opponent of nuclear power, said. “Next thing I knew, I was here.”

She also expressed displeasure with Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito government for steamrollering the bill through the Diet.

“The government is just ignoring our voices,” she said. “It seems to me all it cares about is to ram it through the ongoing Diet.”

Retiree Yukio Noto, 63, meanwhile said he understands the bill’s importance as a means to beef up national security with respect to neighboring countries. But the law, he said, is reminiscent of the nation’s old saber-rattling attitude. Noting the law allows the state to keep designated information secret for up to 60 years, he added: “After 60 years, how many (of today’s) politicians could still be alive? Like zero. Whatever critical information they declared secret, they could evade accountability and get away with it just like that. That’s so undemocratic.”

Meanwhile, two housewives shouted “We will never let you be the victims of another war!” at the top of their lungs at a group of elementary school children across the street who had just finished a tour of the Diet building.

“Frankly, (given our age) we’re not going to be affected much by the law, but it’s those kids we’re worried about,” one of the housewives, 66, said.

“If the bill is passed as planned, we’re giving them a path to war. We can’t feel sorry enough for allowing that to happen,” said the other woman, 63.

A 17-year-old high school girl, a native of Fukushima Prefecture, said she joined the protest because “it’s an emergency day.”

She said she’s deeply dissatisfied with the lack of information available about Fukushima nuclear issues, including how the government is peddling nuclear technology overseas.

“I came here today so I can tell my kids in the future I stood up and did something honorable, and that I’m a decent human being.”

Parties wary of state secrets bill

  • Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Frank La Rue, special rapporteur on freedom of expression, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Human Rights Now
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • International Federation of Journalists
  • Amnesty International Japan
  • Greenpeace Japan
  • Japan Civil Liberties Union
  • Information Clearinghouse Japan
  • Kyu-jo no Kai (Scholars opposed to the revision of Article 9 in the Constitution)
  • Japan Federation of Bar Associations
  • Japan Lawyers Association for Freedom
  • International Theater Institute-Japanese Center
  • Gakusha-no-kai (2,000 academics led by Nobel Prize laureates Toshihide Masukawa and Hideki Shirakawa)
  • 23 theater groups, including Bungaku-za, Gekidan Mingei, Haiyu-za and Mumeijuku
  • Eigajin-no-kai (269 filmmakers and screen actors, including directors Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki and Sayuri Yoshinaga)
  • Hyogenjin-no-kai (6,500 creators including musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and artist Yoshitomo Nara)
  • Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
  • The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association
  • The Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association
  • Japan Magazine Publishers Association
  • Japan Book Publishers Association
  • Japan Professional Photographers Society

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