China / World

Law forced through in spite of protests

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-06-16 07:55

Abe on defensive over anti-terror bill after accusations of stifling debate

TOKYO - Controversial legislation to criminalize the planning of serious crimes was enacted by Japan's parliament on Thursday despite vociferous calls from opposition parties and the public.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition used its majority so the amendment to the law could clear a vote in an upper house plenary session after the Abe-led bloc controversially bypassed an upper house committee vote.

The move allowed the ruling camp to dodge the regular legislative procedures necessary for the legislation to be enacted and effectively forced the bill into law without having to extend the current Diet session.

The government's tactic, while technically permissible, runs against the conventional legislative process and is rarely used in parliament.

The main opposition Democratic Party and three other opposition parties united in trying to impede the bill and on Wednesday evening submitted a no-confidence motion against the Abe Cabinet.

The motion was subsequently rejected in a plenary session of the lower house in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Prior to this, a censure motion lodged against Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda and a motion to dismiss the head of the upper house judicial affairs committee were both voted down on Wednesday.

Opposition parties, civic groups and ordinary citizens have staunchly opposed the bill, which has been scrapped three times before.

The government said the law, which criminalizes the planning of serious offenses, is necessary to prevent terrorism ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

It doesn't give police new powers, but critics say the legislation could be abused to allow wiretapping of innocent citizens and threaten privacy and freedom of expression guarantees in the constitution.

Terrorism "won't disappear because of this law," said 29-year-old demonstrator Yohei Sakano outside parliament.

"It's mostly designed to crack down on citizens' movements, not terrorism."

The government insists the law - which calls for a prison term of up to five years for planning serious crimes - is a prerequisite for implementing a UN treaty against transnational organized crime which Japan signed in 2000.

"We will uphold the law in an appropriate and effective way to protect people's lives," Abe told reporters after the legislation passed.

"Three years ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, we hope to cooperate with the international community to prevent terror," he added.

However, the opposition has warned that petty crimes could fall under the scope of the law, and mocked Japan's justice minister when he earlier conceded that, hypothetically, mushroom hunting could be targeted if the fungi were stolen to raise money to fund terrorism.

But even the slimmed-down legislation gives police and investigators too much leeway, some said.

"What comes next will probably be legislation allowing police to wiretap and eavesdrop on telephone and every day conversations," said Setsu Kobayashi, a constitutional expert and professor emeritus at Keio University.

The opposition chastised Abe for trying to push the law through quickly, as he faces mounting criticism over allegations that he gave friends special consideration in a couple of unrelated business deals.

"This is an ultimate form of forced vote - it shut down sensible debate," Renho, head of the leading opposition Democratic Party who goes by one name, told reporters.

Xinhua - Afp

 Law forced through in spite of protests

Hundreds of demonstrators gather near Japan's Parliament to protest against the controversial anti-terror law in Tokyo.Toshifumi Kitamura / Agence Francepresse

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