Media  Finance and the Social Security System  2022.02.21

Does Japan’s human rights resolution on China go far enough?

The mainstream media is divided over the measure with some saying the language was watered down too much

the japan times on February 3, 2022

International Politics/Diplomacy China

Japan’s Lower House on Tuesday finally adopted the long-delayed China human rights resolution.

Some say, “It was born at last after a difficult delivery,” while others call it “too little, too submissive.”

That said, however, no one seems to be displeased with this example of the fine art of political compromise in Tokyo.

The nation’s mainstream media, though, are divided into three schools of thought. They are grouped into it is either better than nothing, below contempt or a belief it is one of total neglect.

For example, The Nikkei wrote “Even though the resolution avoided condemning China by name, it is commendable that it was adopted before the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics.”

In contrast, the conservative Sankei Shimbun harshly criticized the resolution, saying it was greatly “watered down” by the leadership of the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition and claiming on Wednesday that “It is shameful that they took a considerate attitude toward the Chinese government, which is the one responsible for the crackdown.”

Other dailies, to great surprise, neglected the issue, not even discussing the resolution. The editorial of the liberal Mainichi Shimbun was virtually meaningless, only stating that, “What has become apparent is that both the government and the LDP lack a strategy for diplomacy with China.”

An adulterated resolution

The following are the portions that were reportedly watered down during relevant parliamentary deliberations on the resolution.

  • The draft title of the resolution was “The resolution to condemn the serious human rights violation in Xinjiang, … .” However, “to condemn” was deleted and “violation” was replaced by the word “situation.”
  • The first sentence was originally drafted to say, “In recent years, serious human rights violations have taken place in Xinjiang, Tibet, Southern Mongolia, Hong Kong and other regions” but was later changed to “In recent years, the international community has expressed concern about the serious human rights situation in Xinjiang … .”
  • The fourth paragraph originally read, “This chamber recognizes and strongly condemns changes to the status quo with force, which are symbolized by the serious human rights violation, as a threat to the international community and requests to stop the grave human rights violation in a manner that is acceptable to the international community.” However, “strongly condemns” was deleted while “violation” and “request to stop” were replaced by “situation” and “request accountability for,” respectively.
  • The resolution never named China.

Was the resolution weakened? Not necessarily, since these changes are just what the expression “ostrich policy” means in English. It is crystal clear to everyone that the resolution is aimed at condemning China’s human rights violations.

Were the LDP’s conservative factions unhappy? Hardly. They must be proud of themselves in succeeding to get adopted a long-awaited parliamentary resolution that sends a critical message on China’s human rights violation without naming the nation and using the word. This is a perfect resolution from which they can continue condemning Beijing forever.

In addition, the resolution was adopted almost unanimously in the Lower House. Those who voted against it were a small group of maverick parliamentarians who were critical of the measure, suggesting it was a “limp-wristed resolution” that was intended to make it look like something was being done. No Diet member in Japan seems to be unhappy.

Was Beijing displeased?

It probably wasn’t very happy. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the resolution “maliciously slandered the human rights situation in China without regard to the facts and the truth” and “violently interfered in China’s internal affairs and is of extremely bad quality. This is a serious political provocation against the Chinese people.”

But Beijing knows that Tokyo did not label China’s human rights violations as “genocide,” as many Western nations have done. Tokyo’s reaction must have been within Beijing’s expectation.

Was Prime Minister Fumio Kishida unhappy? Not at all. He said after the adoption of the resolution, “I would like to accept the resolution seriously and continue to promote policies and diplomacy that place importance on universal values and human rights. Universal values should be cherished in other countries as well, and we are communicating these to the world.”

It was not his resolution — the Diet adopted it. The resolution will not damage his position vis-a-vis China, and he does not seem to be concerned.

What might have concerned him more was his decision, on the day of the resolution, to seek a UNESCO World Heritage list designation for a gold and silver mine on the island of Sado.

The LDP’s conservative factions have been urging Kishida to seek the designation because the Sado gold mine, which started operations about four centuries ago and closed in 1989, is a “rare example of industrial heritage” that operated continuously on a large scale and, therefore, is a perfect candidate for the World Heritage.

Seoul may be displeased. Recently, South Korea has expressed strong regret over Japan’s move to seek Sado’s UNESCO designation. Seoul reportedly suspects that Tokyo may try to whitewash the facility’s use of so-called forced labor from the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo is fully aware of that but seems to be determined to seek the designation.

South Korea may politicize this issue again and resume a so-called history war of their own against the four-century-old industrial heritage candidate.

This, however, will not make the majority of the people happy. Many likely do not even know the site. If Seoul were to politicize this issue, it will only be for its domestic audience, which will only make the South Koreans unhappy with no gain.