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The government’s decision to let Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping have an exceptional audience with the Emperor Tuesday made many people wonder whether the government, especially Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, has a correct understanding of the constitutional order with regard to the position of the Emperor. It is hard to dispel the impression that both China and the government have politically exploited the Emperor, who should be above politics.

The Chinese government’s desire for Mr. Xi to gain an audience was strong. In 1995, a rule of protocol was established that a request for an imperial audience be submitted at least a month in advance, to smoothen the Emperor’s schedule. Special consideration also must be given to the health of the Emperor, who underwent prostate cancer surgery in 2003. So far this rule has been applied strictly and equally, irrespective of the size of countries represented by visitors or their political weight.

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