National / Politics

Dozens of local governments across Japan voice concerns over conspiracy bill

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

As a contentious and now internationally controversial bill to criminalize conspiracies faces stiffening opposition in the Diet, dozens of local governments nationwide are voicing concerns, warning against possible human rights violations and the rise of a surveillance state.

Since March, nearly 50 local governments from Hokkaido to Okinawa have passed resolutions or issued statements of opinion opposing the conspiracy bill, which aims to revise the current anti-organized crime law and criminalize activities that the government deems preparation for committing crimes.

Most of the governments expressing concerns are small towns or village assemblies. Still, cities in Hokkaido, Iwate, Fukushima, Kyoto, Nagano, Kochi and Fukuoka prefectures have also weighed in against the legislation.

At least a dozen cities, towns and villages in Nagano Prefecture alone have announced they are opposed to the bill, while another two are expressing caution over passing it until concerns about possible infringements on personal freedoms are addressed. Chikuma, a city of about 61,000 which is opposed to the bill, outlined some of the reasons localities are worried.

“Attempts to criminalize preparations for ‘terrorism’ have already failed to pass the Diet on three other occasions due to strong opposition on the part of the people. Despite that, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration aims to pass the ‘conspiracy’ bill as quickly as possible under the excuse of a counterterrorism policy for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” a statement by Chikuma said.

“The definitions of ‘organized crime groups,’ ‘preparatory activities,’ and ‘terrorism’ in the bill are weak, and it’s not clear that the scope of application is sufficiently limited. It’s possible the bill will be broadly interpreted. The danger that basic human rights will be violated by investigators arbitrarily applying the law hasn’t changed,” it added.

Iwate Prefecture’s Oshu, a city of about 120,000, also criticized the reasons the government has been giving for the bill and warned of increased electronic surveillance.

“The government keeps saying ‘ordinary people won’t be targeted,’ ‘preparation activities will be limited in scope,’ ‘unless we pass the conspiracy bill, we won’t be able to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime,’ ‘without the bill, we can’t fight terrorism, and we can’t hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.’ But it’s already clear, as it passes through the Diet, that these are lies and deceptions,” the city’s opinion statement, passed on March 24, reads.

While not outright opposing the bill and calling for it to be withdrawn, prefectural assemblies in Mie and Miyazaki have passed opinion statements calling for extreme caution during Diet deliberations.

“The debate is to create a new law to deal with preparation for terrorist activities, but there are provisions in laws currently on the books to deal with preparation activities related to terrorism,” Mie Prefecture’s statement said. “The logic and necessity of generalizing a new provision criminalizing preparatory activities for terrorism needs to be made clear.”