It may have been passed as law already, but Japan’s state secrets protection law is still being strongly opposed by several groups who are now taking their protests to the streets. A day after the ruling bloc forced the vote in the Upper House and had the bill approved, citizens held a rally in front of the Diet building in Tokyo, shouting in unison “We will not condone this kind of law.”
Leaders of different religious groups also gathered in front of the JR Shibuya Station in protest, saying the new law is an affront to democracy, as it seeks to shut the eyes, ears and mouths of the common people. Takao Takeda, a 61-year-old monk says that the mental freedom of the people will be suppressed while 49-year-old priest Atsushi Kono said that they will not stand down just because the law has already been passed. Setsuko Nakauchi, a 68-year-old resident of Saitama Prefecture says that if the citizens keep quiet about their anger towards this law, they will be playing into the government‘s hands. “Today marks the first step toward doing away with the law,” she said.
And people are not afraid to express their opposition to the law. A recent survey by Japan’s Kyodo News shows that 82% of the respondents are calling for the revision or abolition of the secrecy law, which seeks to impose stricter punishments on those who will be convicted of sharing information that will be considered “state secrets.” 70.8 of those who were polled also said they were worried about the consequences of this law. Consequently, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been pushing hard for the law to be passed, suffered a drop of 10.3% in his approval rating with 47.6, the first time that it has fallen below 50% since he came back to power in December of last year.
Several other prominent groups have issued statements of protest with this latest development in the Diet. The Japan P.E.N. Club fear that policymakers can cover up information and abuse their power under the pretext of this law. The Japanese Medical and Dental Practitioners for the Improvement of Medical Care (Hodanren) are afraid that their members might be called on to give up their patients’ medical records and other personal information as part of the aptitude test to see if they can be given the task of handling these state secrets. 31 Japanese scholars, including several Nobel laureates also released a statement saying the law “threatens the fundamental human rights and pacifist principles established in the Constitution.” They believe that this may be the greatest threat to democracy in postwar Japan.
[ via Kyodo ]