I am of South Asian origin, currently living in Canada. I spent seven years in Japan, studying four years for a Ph.D. and another three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at Tohoku University, Sendai. While studying at Tohoku University, one incident remains vividly in my memory. It was the yearend of 1999 while I was a third-year Ph.D. student.

In the same laboratory, there was a Chinese student doing his master’s. As the student did not have any scholarship, he had to work part time for his living. Sometimes he was a little late and could not complete his assigned duties on time. He was doing his research under a associate professor who was very strict.

One morning the associate professor looked angrily at the Chinese student and had heated words with him. At the end of the argument, the associate professor started punching him on his face and pushed him to the floor. The Chinese student seemed very puzzled and was crying. This whole incident happened in front of my very eyes. After this incident, the Chinese student tried but failed to get justice from the university authorities. He left Japan after a month.

Since then nothing has happened to the associate professor, who is still in his job. When I talked to my friends and colleagues here in Canada about the incident, they were surprised. If such an incident had happened in Canada or the United States, the associate professor would have been fired and charged with physical assault. I sometimes think that Japanese law perhaps considers such physical assaults lightly, or that the human rights of foreign students are not seriously considered at Japanese educational institutions. I expect that some readers could express their views on this.

sajjad haidar