JEREMIAH FAJARDO WRITES – As China works to impose (and handle blow back from) a controversial air defense zone, Japan’s parliament is tied up in its own controversy in the form of a divisive state secrets bill.
Already passed by the Lower House in November, the contentious law aims, via harsher penalties, to prevent leaks of sensitive information. But from average citizens to U.N. bigwigs, many have questioned just what constitutes a ‘state secret.’ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to calm concerns, stating that two government bodies would be created to guarantee a “multilayered oversight system.” But for those worried, that’s far from reassuring.
From one side, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan asserts the need for any supervisory entities to be completely independent of the government. In a statement to the Mainichi, DPJ honcho Banri Kaieda questioned Abe’s motives, stating “I can say with certainty now that the bill is created by bureaucrats for the bureaucrats to hide information.” Perhaps Kaieda is right. Abe’s reported ‘oversight’ bodies are said to include vice ministers and the chief Cabinet secretary, undermining any sense of autonomy.
On the civilian front, protests have sprung up throughout Tokyo, with an incredible 6,000 citizens picketing the Diet building on December 4. Amongst the worries voiced was the blatant threat to the public’s right to know. Wakako Fukuda, a 19-year-old university student, echoed this, stating, “The bill might create a society where we’ll have to live without being allowed to know what we want to know. How could we live in such a society?”
With the Upper House under the control of Abe’s coalition it’s likely the controversial bill will pass following the vote this Friday. What this spells for the nation’s future is hard to determine, but if Orwell taught us anything, a government so eager to hide information is cause for concern.