Press Release

58th session
9 March 2001

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning concluded its public examination of the initial and second periodic reports of Japan on how that country adheres to the tenets and mandates enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    A Government delegation from Japan answered a host of questions posed by the Committee's Experts on Thursday afternoon, including several about efforts to promote the culture of the Ainu minority.

    A recent survey, the delegation said, revealed there were 23,000 Ainus in Japan, most of whom lived in Hokkaido. The survey showed that 12.4 per cent of them said they had been discriminated against, and a larger number knew other Ainus who had suffered discrimination. The delegation explained efforts were being made to eradicate this. The Human Rights Bureau within the Ministry of Justice had published material about the Ainu and their human rights which were distributed across the country. A law allowed for the promotion of the Ainu culture, including the Ainu language, and there were measures to disseminate the culture throughout the nation that could lead to further acceptance and appreciation of the Ainu people, and would further Ainu pride amongst the Ainu people.

    There was a 361 million Yen budget proposal for the promotion of Ainu culture, and an additional 236 million Yen for scholarships for Ainu students.

    The delegation also spoke about such topics as the wide-ranging legal rights of immigrants in Japan, protection for women and children, the punishment for discriminatory activities and the training activities for immigration officials, police officers and judges.

    Luis Valencia Rodriguez, the Committee's Rapporteur on the reports of Japan, summed up the discussion by saying that the issue of the Ainu minority had been debated, although there was no recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people. On the situation of foreigners in general, Committee members had referred to some examples of discriminatory practices. The Committee Experts will offer their conclusions and recommendations on the reports of Japan near the conclusion of the three-week session, which ends on 23 March.

    The Committee will return at 3 p.m. this afternoon to begin its consideration of the thirteenth and fourteenth periodic reports of Algeria.


    The delegation of Japan, responding to questions raised by the Committee Experts on Thursday afternoon, said the Government was aware of the importance of the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and due respect to NGOs was given in the drafting of the report. There were various opinions in Japan, even among non-governmental organizations, and not everyone would be happy with every part of the report.

    Regarding the importance of international conventions in Japan, the delegation said that they were incorporated in national law. There had not been cases in the courts where the Convention had been cited, probably because it had only been a short-time since Japan had acceded to it. Having said that, there was a case where a jewellery shop was fined 1.5 million Yen for expelling two Brazilians.

    Questioned about the various ethnic populations, the delegation said the Government did not tabulate statistics with regard to ethnic origins. But the policy needs of such statistics would be considered in the future.

    In 1999, there were record numbers of foreigners in Japan -- 4.9 million -- mostly from the Republic of Korea, China and the United States, the delegation said. In total, by country of origin, 40.9 per cent came from the Republic of Korea. The other leading nationalities were China and Brazil.

    Asked about the Ainu minority, the delegation cited a 1999 survey on the Ainu which showed that there were 23,000 Ainus in Japan. Many who lived outside of Hokkaido, or who did not wish to be counted as Ainu, were not counted in this survey. There were statistics about the rate of Ainu students advancing on to higher education, and they would be included in a report at a later date. Some 12.4 per cent of the Ainu people said they had been discriminated against and 15 per cent said an acquaintance had been discriminated against. Of those, 47.3 per cent said they had been discriminated against in schools, and 25.4 per cent had been discriminated against in marriage proposals.

    In order to eradicate all forms of discrimination, including against the Ainu, the Ministry of Justice had published material about the Ainu people and their human rights which was distributed throughout the nation. There was a law that allowed for the promotion of the Ainu culture, including the Ainu language, and measures to disseminate the culture throughout the nation. It was hoped that that would lead to further acceptance and appreciation of the Ainu people, and would further Ainu pride amongst the Ainu people. In terms of the budget for Fiscal Year 2001, 361 million Yen was requested for the promotion of the Ainu culture, and 236 million was requested for scholarships for Ainu students. With regards to the land rights of the Ainu people, discussions were going on currently, and it was being debated whether the Ainu people were the indigenous people of Japan.

    Questioned about the Immigration Control Act, the delegation said the right to work, free choice of employment, and equal pay for equal work was provided for, but that did not guarantee free entry for all foreigners into any profession. It was not true that foreigners were not allowed to change their professions. The Act did not discriminate against according to race or origin whatsoever.

    The delegation said efforts were being made to halt the number of illegal foreign workers, and measures were being taken against employers and job brokers who enabled such a market. A 1989 law created penalties for such crimes. It also established penalties for those who helped with illegal entry and group smuggling of workers. In 1995, there were 326 arrests concerning this issue. In 1999, there were 484 arrests.

    The delegation said there were strict laws against prostitution and child pornography. The root cause of trafficking was in economic disparities between countries. Japan supported developing countries through international assistance, and had provided grassroots grants to NGOs who helped victimized women and children.

    On basic human rights for foreigners, the delegation said the Human Rights Organization in the Ministry of Justice had been holding lectures and discussion groups, as well as producing television and radio campaigns. Human Rights Week was in the first week of December, and it helped raise awareness about human rights in the age of globalization. There was no single specific measure that was the best, and efforts were continually being made to improve on all of them.

    Asked about the treatment of foreigners in detention in Japan, the delegation said the proper legal procedures were followed regardless of whether the person in custody was Japanese or not. An NGO report distorted the situation and did not reflect it accurately. It could not be said that there were no incidents with detainees. At times immigration officials used excessive force, but those officials were disciplined. Detainees received proper and fair treatment.

    Regarding refugees, the delegation said, Japan had promoted allowing a settlement for refugees from Indochina. By December 2000, there were 2,179 asylum-seekers: 265 were accepted, 1,400 were denied, 312 withdrew applications and there were 202 currently being processed.

    Concerning the dissemination of racist ideas, the delegation said it was punishable by the defamation laws. Such punishment did not require assault or use of weapons. It was not believed that such racist dissemination existed in the country to the point where it threatened the right to free speech.

    Questioned about legislation enabling punishment for discriminatory activities, the delegation said the Constitution guarantees the right to free expression. It was one of the most importance concepts with regard to basic human rights. Excessively widespread restrictions were not used. The Government took the position that awareness and appreciation of basic human rights should come through a wide range of views. Racial discriminatory acts took place in different forms. If the motivation of a violent act was rooted in discrimination, the factor could be considered in making the sentence heavier.

    On the Internet, the delegation said there was a guideline model that could be followed by service providers if illegal material was being disseminated.

    The delegation said the right to vote was a right for the Japanese people, and did not belong to foreigners. This was a distinction between citizens and non-citizens, and did not constitute discrimination. With regard to permanent residents who had close relations to local governments, a 1995 Supreme Court decision said those governments could choose to provide their right to vote.

    Asked about the right of Japanese nationals to return to Japan, the delegation said it was a natural right. There were no substantive constraints, such as a permit. Once a person could prove he or she was Japanese, the application to return would be confirmed unconditionally.

    Asked about public rental apartments, the delegation said the law stated that equal treatment had to be given to legal foreigners as was given to Japanese nationals. There were no reports that led the Government to believe there was a problem in this area.

    Immigration staff members, the delegation said, were taught about the treaty through a number of seminars and discussions. Other treaties were being taught as well. Police officers and judges went though similar programmes.

    Asked about the human rights situation for orphans who had been returned from China, the delegation said various benefits and pension allowances were available to them. Public assistance was also available, and various measures were being implemented to improve their living conditions as much as possible to allow them to become self-sufficient.

    Regarding comments made by the Governor of Tokyo that discriminated against people from the Third World, the delegation said the Governor had explained that he did not cite any nationality specifically, but instead foreigners in general, and therefore he did not incite racial discrimination. Later, he released a written statement saying that from now on, he would promote racial tolerance and the measures dealing with human rights. The Governor was elected by the people of Tokyo.

    Asked about a leaflet that said for people to notify police if they saw a Chinese person, the delegation said these leaflets were collected and discarded, and were not proper. Safeguards were being discussed so that similar incidents would not happen in the future.

    The delegation answered a question about why it took Japan so long to consider acceding to the Convention. There were questions about the freedom of expression that made the country take its time before deciding to sign the treaty.

    LUIS VALENCIA RODRIGUEZ, the Committee's Rapporteur on the reports of Japan, said the dialogue over the past two days had indicated a healthy communication between the country and the Committee. The Committeee had asked Japan to reconsider its decision not to have general legislation outlawing racial discrimination. The statement made by the Governor of Tokyo had caused concern among Committee members, and the delegation had then explained that the Governor had offered a statement saying he did not mean to incite racial discrimination. Discussions were held about the Ainu minority, although there was no recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people. On the situation of foreigners in general, Committee members referred to some examples of discriminatory practices. On the subject of refugees, the delegation said that Indochinese refugees were frequently accepted. There was talk about punishments for people who exploited migrant workers. The final conclusions of the Committee should welcome the publicity of the Convention in the country.

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