A new bill reveals the Japanese government’s authoritarian streak

FOR several weeks Japan’s Diet has been debating a law that would punish people who plan to commit crimes. The government says the conspiracy bill will protect the nation from terrorism. In a country where crime has fallen to a record low (a single fatal shooting was recorded for the whole of 2015) and where the last big terrorist attack was more than 20 years ago, that justification sounds feeble to many.

Japan’s federation of bar associations questions whether the police need more powers. It says they can use existing laws to pursue criminal conspiracies. Critics of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suspect ulterior motives. “The need for a new law is very small but the dangers of having the law are enormous,” says Takeshi Shina of the Democratic Party, the main opposition. Passage of the bill, he argues, will lead to an erosion of personal liberty: “The government is far more passionate about the freedom of the state to act than about protecting the constitutional rights of the individual.”

To be fair, the LDP, which has dominated Japanese politics for 60 years, has never hidden its authoritarian streak. It wants to do away with the liberal...

Read More