Japan takes a stand on Dragon’s atrocities

On 1st February, Japan’s parliament passed a rare resolution condemning China’s
“severe human rights situation” and urging the government to take action to
alleviate the situation. After a US-led diplomatic boycott over worries about China’s
human rights situation, Japan has already indicated it will not send a government
delegation to the forthcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, but Tokyo has avoided
publicly characterizing its decision as such.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stated repeatedly since taking office in October
that Japan will not mince words with China when required, and in November hired
former defence minister Gen Nakatani as his human rights assistant.
The international community has raised concern about issues like incarceration and
violations of religious freedom in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Tibet,
and Hong Kong, according to the resolution passed by the lower chamber. “Human
rights issues cannot just be domestic issues, because human rights hold universal
values and are a rightful matter of concern for the international community,” the
resolution said. “This chamber recognizes changes to the status quo with force,
which are symbolized by the serious human rights situation, as a threat to the
international community,”
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the resolution “ignores the facts,
maliciously slanders China’s human rights situation, seriously violates international
law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s
internal affairs, and is extremely egregious in nature.” The statement went on to say
that when Japan went to war against other countries, it committed a slew of
In December, US President Joe Biden approved legislation prohibiting imports from
China’s Xinjiang area due to concerns about forced labour. Beijing’s handling of the
Uyghur Muslim minority has been dubbed “genocide” by the United States, while
China denies human rights violations in Xinjiang.
Although there were concerns in the government about a potential economic
impact, the conservative wing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sought
ratification of the resolution ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics’ inauguration on
February 4, according to Jiji news agency. Inside the LDP, there have always been
divergent viewpoints on how to handle China. The hardline side of the party is
aggressive on China policy and viewed as primarily concerned with defence
problems. Other party supporters have campaigned to keep Japan’s close
economic ties with its neighbour intact.
The legislative resolution urged Japan’s government to collaborate with the
international community to address the problem. According to them the government
must gather data to get a full picture, assess the grave human rights scenario in
collaboration with the international community, and put in place extensive relief
In a likely acknowledgement to tight bilateral economic relations, the resolution
avoided using the word “China” anywhere in the text and avoided phrases like
“human rights violation,” instead of using the phrase “human rights situation.”
China serves as a manufacturing powerhouse for the Japanese, as well as a market
for everything from vehicles to construction equipment.
In a rare interview, an adviser to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that Japan
should do more to pressure China on human rights, endorsing a course that might
exacerbate tensions between Asia’s two largest economies. Following a legislative
vote this week calling on the government to investigate alleged abuses, Gen
Nakatani, who was appointed to a new human-rights position formed last year, said
he wants to press China more on the matter.
Previously, the former defence minister collaborated on human rights with a group
of lawmakers from both the government and opposition parties. Long hesitant to
publicly condemn other nations on human rights issues, Japan reversed direction
in 2020 after Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong, a move that strained already
strained bilateral relations and led to Nakatani’s new position.
In an interview with Bloomberg two days before the Beijing Olympics opening
ceremony on Friday, Nakatani stated that he feels universal principles must be
safeguarded in China, which is why he wants to urge China on this issue even more
than in the past.
The resolution enraged China, which called it “vile” and blasted Japan’s “deplorable
track record in human rights.” Concerns over human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner
Mongolia, and Hong Kong were raised in the Japanese legislation. The proposal
was supported by lawmakers from both the government and opposition parties in
Japan, though some worried that the phrasing wasn’t strong enough. The resolution
calls on the Japanese government to gather information on the claims of abuse and
to collaborate with other nations to develop a strategy to assist people who have
been harmed.
Asia’s second-largest economy walks a fine line between maintaining ties with the
United States, its sole formal military ally and offending China, its massive
neighbour and key trade partner. At the Olympics, Japan’s balancing act will be on
show. By delaying the dispatch of government personnel, Tokyo essentially backed
the US-led diplomatic boycott of the games. Instead, it will send three senior
members of the teams that assisted in the organisation of the Tokyo Olympics and
Paralympics last year, which China welcomed. While authorities have expressed
worry over accusations of human rights breaches in Xinjiang, the Japanese
government has not confirmed the accuracy of such reports. The United States, on
the other hand, has called China’s treatment of the Uyghurs “genocide.”
Beijing has constantly disputed charges that it oppresses Muslim Uyghurs, referring
to them as “the century’s worst falsehood.” With Western countries toughening their
stance on the problem, Japan must produce guidelines “with breakneck speed” to
assist businesses in complying with new foreign legislation, or risk trade barriers,
according to Nakatani.
In 2021, the US Customs and Border Protection agency stopped a shipment of
Uniqlo shirts from Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. for breaching an order forbidding the
importation of articles suspected of being made using forced labour from China’s
state-owned Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. President Joe Biden
signed a measure in December prohibiting corporations from importing items from
Xinjiang unless they can verify, they were not created using forced labour.
Given that Xinjiang is a major source of cotton for clothes and a major producer of
polysilicon for solar panels, such a law poses a significant challenge for many
businesses. After a barrage of criticism on Chinese social media, Intel Corp
apologized for asking suppliers not to utilize Xinjiang labour or products. Only
roughly a quarter of the 2,786 big corporations contacted responded to a poll issued
by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in December. A little more
than half of those polled indicated they had a policy in place for human rights due
diligence. Attitudes, according to Nakatani, are fast shifting Human rights are
considered a major problem among multinational firms with international operations,
even more so than climate change.