National / Politics

Abe urges Renho to prove her status under the law with release of family registry

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday urged opposition leader Renho to disclose a copy of her family registry to prove the legality of her status under a nationality law, adding fresh fuel to the flames of her dual passport controversy.

Abe’s comment is the latest in a litany of attacks by conservative lawmakers on the Democratic Party president during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session.

Renho, who is half-Taiwanese and half-Japanese, revealed in September that she had inadvertently retained her Taiwanese nationality for about 30 years after obtaining Japanese citizenship at the age of 17 in 1985.

The nationality law stipulates that people in her position — where one parent is Japanese and the other is a foreign national — are in principle obliged to decide which citizenship to adopt by the age of 22, the first step toward ultimately renouncing the other remaining citizenship.

But critics now suspect that Renho may have skipped this first step, citing her refusal to disclose her koseki family registry as proof.

“Lawmakers all receive a mandate from voters, meaning we need to make sure the public will harbor no distrust toward what we do and say,” Abe told an Upper House budget committee in response to a question by fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Junko Mihara.

“I believe Renho shouldn’t neglect her responsibility to explain herself.”

Abe also suggested that the DP leader should emulate LDP lawmaker Kimi Onoda, who earlier this month admitted to being in possession of both Japanese and American nationalities.

Although Onoda apologized for her prior failure to relinquish her American citizenship, by uploading a photograph of a copy of her family registry in an Oct. 4 Facebook post, she proved that she had made the decision to retain Japanese nationality in October 2015, months before her successful bid for a Diet seat in July’s Upper House election.

While the final step of renouncing non-Japanese citizenship is somewhat vaguely defined by law as an act toward which one is duty-bound to take steps, the first step of choosing one nationality as primary, on the other hand, amounts to a strict legal obligation. Failure to do so, according to the Justice Ministry, is clearly illegal.

“Renho kept saying she had broken no law, but if she truly neglected to declare which citizenship to adopt, that would be a clear violation of the nationality law,” Mihara said in the budget committee session.

“This is an extremely serious problem that could undermine voters’ trust in politics.”

Speaking at a regular press briefing Thursday afternoon, Renho repeatedly sidestepped the question of whether she had undergone the process of selecting Japanese nationality over Taiwanese in the past. She also declined to respond to Abe’s suggestion that she reveal her family registry, claiming she had no first-hand knowledge of what he had said.

Instead, noting her successful renunciation of Taiwanese citizenship last month, Renho stressed only that she is currently in the process of completing the remaining paperwork as per the family registry law.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5