120,000 Japanese Surround the Capitol in Protest of New Security Bill

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像
Why you need to know

Opposers see the amendment as a "legislation of war" and are worried young people will be forced to go on the battlefield if Japan gets involved in international wars.

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In protest of the new security bill in Japan, a mass rally was held near the capitol hill. The organizers in Tokyo announced that there were around 120,000 participants, but the Japanese National Police Agency stated there were only 30,000 present. 47 prefectures of Japan, including Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Hokkaido, Aomori and Okinawa, and a total of three hundred areas responded to the event asking for Abe’s government to abolish the bill.

This is one of the largest organized street protests Japan has seen since the continuous weekly protests in Tokyo started a few months ago.

Katsuya Okada, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, says the people can’t allow the unconstitutional security bill pass and must let Abe’s government see the anger of citizens.

UDN reports, protester Kenichi Ozawa says, “I can’t just do nothing when I think of the excessive doings of Abe’s government. Japan just might become a country with the ability to wage war." Another protester Masako Suzuki says, “Due to Article 9 in the constitution, Japan has never taken part in any war or been under any kind of attack for the past 70 years. Article 9 is our foundation."

Article 9 of the Japan constitution mentions, “The Japanese people sincerely seek international peace based on justice and order. They renounce wars that are initiated by national power, used as threats or means to settle international disputes." Opposers see the amendment as a “legislation of war" and are worried young people will be forced to go on the battlefield if Japan gets involved in international wars.

Photo Credit: Reuters

Abe’s government insisted on establishing the security bill this season despite protests from the opposition party and public.

The Mainichi, a Japanese news outlet, published on August 10 that Abe’s supporting rate has dropped to 32 percent, reaching a new low since he regained power in December 2012. An earlier poll conducted by Kyodo News shows 58.2 percent of the Japanese are against the amendment and only 31.1 percent support it. 60 percent of the people interviewed believe there is no need for it to be established in the congress this season.

Storm Media reports, voices protesting against the new security bill are becoming louder and around 300 lawyers and academics (including the former Japanese Supreme Court judge, former officer of the cabinet, president of the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations and so on) say the new bill violates the constitution. Faculty members from 108 universities have countersigned to abolish the bill. On August 24, four students in Tokyo went on a hunger strike for an indefinite period. On August 29, 3,500 people gathered in downtown Sapporo, Hokkaido, which was a mass protest rarely seen in Hokkaido.

China Times reports, in addition to collective hunger strikes, another group of Japanese university students formed “Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs)." They hold weekly rallies near the capitol hill and shout out slogans such as, “No war," “Protect the constitution," “Down with Abe" and so on.

Aki Okuda, one of the founders of SEALDs, says if a government can make alterations on its own, then it can also make amendments to the constitution and do whatever it pleases. There are also news reporters that said democracy is dead once the house of representatives passed the bill, but they believe a start comes with an end.

Photo Credit: Reuters

The forming of SEALDs has changed the cold attitude of Japanese students towards politics and protests. There have been no large-scale student protests or citizen movements in Japan since the 1960s. Different from the Marxist student movements in the past, SEALDs discards violence and advocates respect for the constitution and to build a solid society and peaceful security policies.

Newtalk reports, in order to ban collective self-defense, Abe went against the public’s opinion and drafted the new security bill. After forcing the house of representatives to vote on the bill, Abe has delivered the bill to the senate. The Liberal Democratic Party led by Abe and the Clean Government Party hold two-thirds in the house of representatives and can force the senate to pass the bill on September 11.

Initium Media reports, according to the 60-day rule, if the senate does not put the bill to vote within 60 days (July 16 to September 14), then it means the senate is rejecting it. If the bill returns to the house of representatives and two-thirds of the house supports it, then it becomes valid. This regulation was designed under the basis that the house of representatives was superior and could reflect the voices of the public more than the senate.

Photo Credit: Reuters

Liberty Times reports, the new security bill is receiving backlash from the public because it allows the Japanese self-defense force to be dispatched whether or not the country or its citizens are under direct threat. Opposers say the law violates the spirit of peace Japan adopted after WWII and the country will be dragged into war because of the United States. This is why the bill is called, “legislation of war." But Abe and supporters of the bill believe regarding the rise of China and the unpredictability of North Korea, the bill is necessary because the safe environment surrounding Japan is already seeing major changes.

Translated by Olivia Yang

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