Reiji Yoshida’s May 8 article, “Constitution protects all” — about how far Japan’s Constitution protects the rights of foreigners — is a bit misleading.

The 1978 Supreme Court decision referred to in the article states in part: “Constitutional guarantee on the freedom of political activities extends to foreign nationals staying in Japan, except those activities which are considered to be inappropriate by taking into account the status as a foreign national, such as activities which have influence on political decision-making and its implementation in Japan.”

The court thus dismissed the appeal of the plaintiff, a U.S. national who had sought to repeal a deportation order issued partly because of how the plaintiff had been protesting America’s pursuit of the Vietnam war from bases in Japan.

The decision abandoned whatever constitutional freedoms foreigners might have to the mercy of customary international law, which recognizes the right of every state to pretty much do what it pleases on whether to permit foreigners to enter or remain in the country. It said nothing that should encourage liberals within the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations to think that “kokumin” (the people) in the Constitution means other than “people affiliated with the country” or “nationals” of Japan.

william wetherall

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