Companies Pull Fear-Mongering Magazine
Friday, February 16, 2007 Posted: 10:13 AM JST
(by Linda van Engelenburg) - The recent release of a magazine called Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu (Foreign Crime Underground Files) that raised fears about foreign crime, has strongly angered the country's foreign community. So many have complained that companies have started to remove the fear mongering magazine.
The magazine, published by Eichi Publishing, features titles like "Is it all right to let foreigners devastate Japan?" and pictures of foreigners kissing Japanese girls. Its publication, clearly intended to spread fear about foreigners, comes as experts call for a relaxation of immigration laws to counter rapid population decline.
Human Rights Activist Debito Arudou, who has started a campaign against the magazine, says that he feels quite suspicious about the origins of the magazine. He especially wonders why an expensive magazine like this can be published without any advertising, how it escaped the attention of the underground press, and how the editors managed to get information like photographs of the inside of passports. He strongly believes that police were somehow involved.
Eichi Shuppan's editorial director Shigeki Saka explains in an interview about the foreign crime magazine that he wanted to expand the debate about foreign crimes in Japan as well as internationalization. "In principle it is a magazine written in Japanese and sold in Japan," he says. "It's for Japanese people to read it. Besides, on the magazine there are not any discriminatory claims. Though I imagine that foreigners who are always discriminated are a little bit more sensitive."
Some people in Japan are concerned about a possible increase in crime associated with an influx of foreigners. In a Feb 9 editorial, Yomiuri Shimbun writes that crime committed by foreign residents is becoming a serious problem. It claims that the number of foreign nationals who committed crimes in Japan and then fled to other countries increased from 221 in 1996 to 656 in 2006. This should be prevented at any costs, believes the editor: "It is of the utmost importance that Japanese authorities prevent foreign criminals from escaping punishment in this country." The solution, he believes, lies in more extradition treaties with other countries.
Many experts say that the whole idea of an increase in foreign crime is a big myth. In a Nov 2006 article, the Asahi Shimbun quotes experts who say that the measures that authorities have taken to improve safety may have strengthened the fear that Japan's crime problem is out of control. Statistics, the article says, do not support the widespread conviction that foreigners are to blame for the higher crime rates.
The reason for blowing up crimes committed by foreigners may be simply explained as xenophobia. Racial purity still looms large in the Japanese mind. When Japan's economy was booming, politicians celebrating homogeneity sometimes warned against immigration as the main cause of social destabilization.
Just a few months after a gang of Chinese students committed a brutal murder of a Japanese family in June 2003, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for example used the fear caused by this murder to win votes for a general election. During his campaign, he repeatedly told people that he would increase the number of police officers in response to crimes committed by foreigners. He also said that immigration management and control would be strengthened.
As a result, the number of Chinese students who were allowed into Japan was drastically restricted. Many in the Chinese community felt that they were being stereotyped as criminals.
Other politicians followed his example. Politicians like Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara use peopleís fears to get publicity, increase budgets for police and military spending, and most of all, to get votes.
Hiroshi Kubo, the former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Emergency Public Safety Task Force, said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun last December, that Japanese authorities are fear mongering by taking statistics that work in their favor.
"Crimes by foreigners have long been highlighted," he says, "but there's little to suggest that Tokyo or Japan is in the midst of a violent crime spree. In 2002, there were 102 non-Japanese arrested in Tokyo for violent crimes including murder, armed robbery, arson and rape. The following year, that number jumped to 156, fell back to 117 in 2004 and was just 84 in 2005."
Kubo says that Japanese need to look in their own backyard: "the number of violent crimes foreigners are committing in Tokyo is not a patch on the Japanese, who account for about 1,000 cases a year."
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