The Death of a Ghanaian: a Minor Update

After a rally and march against the exclusion of Korean schools from the "tuition-free" policy today, I talked with a freelance journalist. According to his sources, the Ghanaian who died after having been "restrained" by immigration officers at Narita on March 22 had been living in Japan for about 20 years; he also might have filed a lawsuit for his stay a few years ago. This information is not based on my own research, and I cannot confirm it, but it's good to know there's a journalist interested in this case, so I thought maybe I should share it with those who care about him. He also suggested this sort of thing tends to get lost in the dark without proper investigation in this country, so I think an international pressure would be vital. Has this incident been reported in a foreign newspaper? If so, please let me know, and I'll inform the Japanese corporate media as well as that freelance journalist and human rights organizations.


Dissident Voice Article

I contributed the following article to Dissident Voice:
Korean Schools to Be Excluded from a Policy For All: Report from Japan

This is a revised and expanded version of an earlier post here.


The Ghanaian's Wife Protests

The Asahi Shimbun reports in another tiny article today (March 26th) that the wife of the Ghanaian who passed away during his forced deportation in Narita protested against the Immigration Bureau of Japan and demanded an apology yesterday. At a press conference, she said "I am mortified. I demand that the truth be brought into daylight." The Chiba Nippo reports the result of the autopsy: the cause of death is unknown, according to the police.


Attention Please MS965

On the huger strike that I allude to, here's an article in English:
Immigration detainees end hunger strike

And in Japanese:
転載・【緊急要請】被収容者ハンスト:西日本入管センターに 抗議を!


Ghanaian Dead in Narita

I found a tiny article in The Asahi Shimbun this morning, about the death of a Ghanaian man. Around three p.m. yesterday, he was about to be deported from the country and forced to board an EGYPTAIR flight. He reportedly resisted, and was "restrained" by immigration officers. He then "stopped moving," and was taken to the hospital in the airport, where his death was confirmed. That's about all in the article.

I think there are questions to be asked: why was he being deported in the first place?; why and how did he resist?; did he say anything?; what means of restraint was employed; was it a murder? The Japanese mainstream media are not accustomed to asking those sorts of questions when it comes to government-related cases like this, nor is the government willing to answer them. People "stop moving" every now and then in prisons and detention facilities in this country, and little investigation is conducted.

But this time, there are international witnesses, as the event took place on an airplane to Cairo. A man, a human being, "stopped moving," and it would be highly unlikely if there weren't airline employees and passengers present there to see it when that happened.

I believe the international community should take interest in this case and raise questions that we, the Japanese, may not be quite capable of asking ourselves. I want to know the facts, and I think they should be known; we need to know what our government is doing in our name so that we will be a bit more aware of our responsibility.

Oh, the flight number is MS965, by the way. It took off about fifty minutes late on March 22nd, with dozens of passengers and EGYPTAIR employees who likely saw what happened.


Hatoyama to Protect Life, except that of Koreans

Last summer, there was a change of government here in Japan, from the Liberal Democratic Party (自由民主党) to the Democratic Party (民主党). From the leftist perspective, it is difficult to see any substantial difference between the two, aside from the extra word in the name of the former, but the new administration does employ some new rhetoric. A keyword here is fraternity (the gender insensitivity is something that hasn't changed).

The fraternal spirit is decorated with some modest socialist policies. One of them is to make high school education "free"(高校無償化): if things go as planned, there will be no tuition for all public schools, starting April; all private schools, international schools included, will receive government subsidies so that they will be more affordable. I just used "all" twice, because that's what the government and the ruling parties had been telling us until very recently. Then just weeks ago, Hiroshi Nakai (中井洽), a cabinet member, showed up out of nowhere and opened his mouth. He wants to exclude Korean schools (朝鮮学校) as part of economic sanctions against North Korea. Thank God we have Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山由紀夫), someone who believes in fraternity, in power. One would expect him not to listen to such racist nonsense and go ahead with the plan, the plan for all. As it turns out, the prime minister is also inclined to make an exception to "all."

Let me give you a paragraph of a Far East modern history lesson. In the nineteenth century, Japan started aggression against Korea and incorporated it in the early twentieth century. Under the colonial rule, a lot of Koreans were taken to Japan as forced laborers. Others had to migrate because of the economic mess created by the invaders. In 1945, the Empire of Japan was defeated, which was a liberation for Korean people. Then the cold (and hot) war. As a result of all this, there are hundreds of thousands of permanent residents of the Korean origin in Japan. Since the defeat of the Empire failed to amount to a significant break with the past, Japan still is a racist society, hostile to the non-Japanese. On the other hand, as early as just after the liberation, some Koreans decided to build their own schools, teaching their own children their own culture and language. From the very beginning, their efforts were met with the government suppression: arrests were made, a young person killed, the schools closed down. And yet they didn't give up. Korean schools still continue to exist in this racist nation, a testament to their struggles.

The exclusion of Korean schools from this new policy should be situated in this context. In his policy address earlier this year, Hatoyama said he wants to protect life and argued "we must guarantee all children ways of life in which everyone can drink healthy water and enjoy basic education free from discrimination and prejudice with their human rights protected." Well said. In light of the recent events, however, Myungsoo Kim (金明秀) suggests a revision to his statement: Hatoyama should say "I want to protect life, except that of Koreans."

A lot of permanent residents of the Korean origin with some Japanese and other people are enraged. They are collecting signatures, handing out leaflets, holding meetings, and expressing their opinions on the street, calling against discrimination. I hope the international community will take interest in this issue and start to participate in the calls against exclusion of Korean schools.

A revised and expanded version of this entry has been published at Dissident Voice.


Is Haruki Murakami an Anti-War Figure?

In an earlier post,  I criticized Haruki Murakami (村上春樹) for his bad faith or self deception about the choice he made regarding the Jerusalem Prize. shaymaa kindly provided a supportive comment, to which I responded and said:

Pretending to take no side, he clearly takes the side of the State of Israel, which continues its aggression towards Palestinians. It is sad that some "pacifists" in my country see him as some kind of an anti-war figure, which he is not.

With the latter part of which Gottahavawa disagrees. S/he says:

You also state he is not anti-war, yet admit you have not read his works (and, I would guess, his interviews and essays -- in journals like Eureka and bungakukai). While I too must admit to finding his position on the Palestinians troubling, you should not so easily dismiss the author or his works. In terms of Japan, his works are very much anti-war, and his political stance in many ways resembles your views. Read a few pages of "Hitsuji wo meguru boken" or "Nejimakidori no kuroniruru" and this should be readily apparent.

Well, Gottahavawa, thanks for the recommendations. I will try to read those books when I have a chance.

But I was not talking about subjective pacifism. Ask Obama, Bush, Blair, Hatoyama, or even Hirohito; I bet they would all say without hesitation or equivocation that they are against war and stand for peace. As this thought experiment makes clear, being an "anti-war" in and of itself does not amount to much. Remember, the IDF stands for Israel Defense Force. When they drop a bomb in Gaza, they are doing so to end war and make peace. In a sense they are against war.

However, if you start using the term "anti-war" that way, then it loses its critical edge; if it is to be retained, you need to ask against what war, against which side, for which side. And on these questions, Haruki's acceptance of the Jerusalem Prize provided a clear answer: he takes the side of the State of Israel. His speech included some mild criticisms, but bringing up white phosphorus is in no way subversive of the Israeli civil society, which is quite ready to tolerate even stronger internal dissidence. Every once in a while, they make movies like Waltz with Bashir and yet continue to do what they do. The bottom line is, Haruki chose not to boycott the Prize, and whatever he said at the speech, it was an act of endorsement for everything the IDF is doing from an international author with fans and followers around the world (although he did lose at least one, shaymaa, for his choice).

Haruki also referred to Japanese past aggression:

My father passed away last year at the age of ninety. He was a retired teacher and a part-time Buddhist priest. When he was in graduate school in Kyoto, he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in China. As a child born after the war, I used to see him every morning before breakfast offering up long, deeply-felt prayers at the small Buddhist altar in our house. One time I asked him why he did this, and he told me he was praying for the people who had died in the battlefield. He was praying for all the people who died, he said, both ally and enemy alike. Staring at his back as he knelt at the altar, I seemed to feel the shadow of death hovering around him.

My father died, and with him he took his memories, memories that I can never know. But the presence of death that lurked about him remains in my own memory. It is one of the few things I carry on from him, and one of the most important.

Here again, you see his trick. Death is not an appropriate concept in a war situation as it lacks any political positionality. No, it was not just death; it was a murder; it was a massacre; it was a rape. The difference the last three terms have in common with death is they all imply the presence of a perpetrator. The War was no natural disaster; it was the Empire of Japan and its people who started it; we invaded Asia, colonized it, killed people, and raped women. 

Most Japanese people are like Haruki: they would likely say they are anti-war if asked. But to be an anti-war in any meaningful way requires more than just making a simple statement. We need to confront our past and present,  and take a side. Whose side are you on? I side against the nation of Japan, which, without any clear break with the past Empire, continues its aggression now under the American hegemony and racist violence institutional or otherwise within its territories.

Oh by the way, here's something I did on the eve of Haruki's visit to Jerusalem: