Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration appears to be struggling with decisive action on China’s human rights abuses, with Tokyo apparently finding it difficult to take a unified approach together with the United States and Europe.
When he launched his second Cabinet earlier this month, Kishida appointed former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani — a human rights hawk — to the newly created post of special adviser to the prime minister on international human rights issues.
Nakatani had been pushing to enact a law that would allow the Japanese government to impose sanctions on foreign government officials engaged in human rights abuses, but has recently toned down his rhetoric.
“We need to look at what will happen if sanctions are imposed,” Nakatani said on television Wednesday. “Japan has been responding with a policy of dialogue and cooperation.”
The U.S. and Europe have been taking a tough stance against human rights abuses based on sanctions and pressure, while Japan’s rights diplomacy has put an emphasis on dialogue.
When he declared his bid for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September, Kishida said he would take a resolute stance against China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
But he has yet to take concrete action. In addition, the prime minister urged Nakatani to act in accordance with the government’s policy when he appointed him to the adviser’s post.
The international community has been stepping up criticism of China. The U.S. and U.K. are considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which would mean no government officials from those countries attending the Games.
Sentiment against Beijing has recently been worsened by the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai after she accused a former top Communist Party official of sexual assault.
Kishida has been vague about whether Japan will send a senior government official to the Beijing Olympics. He has only said, “We’ll consider it in light of the national interest.”
Some Japanese government officials have complained that creating the new adviser’s post will become meaningless if the country continues with its current diplomatic policy on human rights.
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