Japan needs to combat racism, xenophobia, U.N. says


Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at 12:40 JST
NEW YORK — Japan should clearly adopt national legislation to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and exercise a greater political will to fight them, a U.N special rapporteur said Monday.
“I will propose that in Japan, as elsewhere, that national legislation should be adopted clearly against racism and racial discrimination and xenophobia,” said Doudou Diene of Senegal, who was appointed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to investigate contemporary forms of racism and discrimination in various countries.
In his presentation, Diene highlighted the situation in Japan where the Ainu, an indigenous people from Hokkaido and those who were originally outcasts from the feudal era continue to face problems.
Also of concern to Diene is the treatment of Korean and Chinese minorities living in Japan, as well as the new immigrants originating from Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“I am going to ask for the strengthening of the expression of political will to combat racism,” Diene said, noting that although his nine-day visit to the country in July was a sign of political will, he thought it should be expressed in a stronger way.
As the special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Diene traveled to Japan where he met with governmental officials and members of civil society in various areas, including Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka.
“Japan, both through the national inheritance of its society and its relations with neighboring countries, as well as the insularity of its peoples, is still marked by real racism and xenophobia,” he noted in his presentation before the General Assembly’s committee that addresses human rights issues.
Representatives from China, North and South Korea also publicly spoke out in favor of Diene’s report, reiterating their calls on Japan to address discrimination.
“We tend to concur with the findings of Mr Diene that racist discrimination and xenophobia are a reality in Japanese society that has been verified both by media exposure and also repeated complaints my government has received,” said La Yifan, a Chinese counselor.
“We believe that there may be few countries in the world, if any, where some form of racial discrimination does not exist,” said Yasushi Takase, a minister with the Japanese mission at the United Nations. “In this regard Japan has made an effort to improve the situation with its own country.”
Diene is currently awaiting a response from the Japanese government to his initial findings and plans to submit a finalized report to the Commission of Human Rights next year.
In speaking of the response by officials to his earlier visit, Diene noted that the Japanese authorities he met with were extremely positive and facilitated his visit.
The special rapporteur also added that he had a special interest in visiting Japan to better understand the situation in the country that is historically marked by an “island oriented approach,” yet is considered to be international from a scientific and technological point of view.
“Clearly Japan as a country is committed to a long and deep and complex process of multiculturalism, and it was important for me to see where this process was at,” Diene said.
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