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Integrated circuit chip on my shoulder

Foreigners in Japan on long-term visas (i.e., not tourists) already have to carry "Alien Registration Cards" with them at all times. And those who overstay their visas already face harsh treatment, including detainment or deportation.

So this shouldn't particularly bother me, but somehow, it does. The Asahi Shimbun reports:

To clamp down on illegal foreigners, a ruling party subcommission on Wednesday recommended that alien registration cards contain integrated circuit (IC) chips that can store personal information.

The plan is intended to enable police and immigration authorities to jointly block illegal entry and more effectively track down those whose visas have expired. The IC chips will also help to prevent forgeries.

The information of the cardholder, including name, nationality, address and visa status, will be controlled at the Intelligence Center, which the government plans to establish.
The Japan Times adds some more information on the new ID chips:
The LDP and the government claim the new policy is aimed at preventing terrorism and crime.

But the new system, which is intended to replace the Certificate of Alien Registration, or "gaijin card," foreigners are currently required to carry, is likely to raise concerns about information sharing between immigration and police authorities.

...As usual, the holder will be required to report any change of address. But they will also be required to obtain permission from the government to change jobs.
And then there's this, from Kyodo News:
Japan plans to expand fingerprinting requirements for foreigners not only upon entry into the country but upon departure as well, as part of crime prevention measures, ruling party lawmakers said Wednesday. The government and the Liberal Democratic Party reached the agreement at a session of the party's panel on foreigners staying illegally in Japan.

Lawmakers said those with special permanent residency, including Korean residents in Japan, will be exempt from the measure. The latest move is aimed at preventing foreigners who are suspects in criminal cases in Japan from fleeing to a third country under an assumed identity, the lawmakers said.
I wonder how many foreign criminal suspects try to flee Japan under a fake name each year. Surely it can't be more than a few. Yet these new rules will affect many thousands of foreigners. At the same time, they'll do nothing to help catch Japanese criminals, who are responsible for the vast majority of crime in Japan. As Asia Times Online reported last November:
Over the past two decades, crimes committed by foreigners have never exceeded about 4% of all crime in Japan, and typically the yearly average has been between 2% and 3%. Foreigners currently make up just over 1% of Japan's total population, so they are only slightly over-represented in the figures. Despite this, the police, lawmakers and the media have focused on foreign crime as if it were one of the most serious issues facing Japan. For example, five of the 16 annual Police White Paper policy reports published between 1987 and 2003 took crimes committed by foreigners as their main theme.
And actually, the claim that foreigners are overrepresented in the crime statistics is misleading. Roughly one-third of foreigner "crimes" are simple visa violations — a relatively low-key offense that Japanese, by definition, cannot commit.

I still think Japan's a great place to live, but I'm just not feeling a whole lot of that famous Japanese hospitality right now.


Anonymous said...

While I think a government can reasonably make fairly extreme demands of foreigners within it's boundaries, the bigger problem I think is the base philosophy that underlies this issue.

I continue to believe that nations that hold to rigid ethnic and culteral definitions of themselves will be at an increasing disadvantage in the globalized world.  

Posted by Dave Justus

Anonymous said...

...never been anything but a victim of crime in Japan. I had my wallet stolen in Osaka and my credit card info passed to several different cab companies, who ran it through over several hours to about 400,000 yen. When I went to the police they told me it was a crime against my card company and not me so they couldn't investigate. Also, a bag taken from my office. Of course when I told many Japanese about this, several times the response was, oh there are so many Chinese criminals these days. I agree, it is a great place to live but the self denial that Japanese can be criminals is going to be debilitating an dmay make your and my life slightly less pleasant over the coming years. 

Posted by tokyobk

Anonymous said...

The corruption of ``foreign'' crime statistics in Japan goes beyond the inclusion of visa violations--a crime Japanese could never commit in Japan. Newspapers report crime statistics compiled by the police, not the court system. The figures reported as reflecting "crimes" actually refer to cases in which a crime was "reported." Specifically, this means cases in which a police officer wrote a report.

If a police officer asks me if the bicycle I'm riding is mine and I say yes, and prove it to him, that could be included as a "crime" on my part if the officer returns to his koban and files a crime report on it. When I called the National Police Agency and asked them about this, they assured me that policeman would not write a report in that circumstance. However, they said that there were no written guidelines they could provide me with that would define what qualifies as a suspected crime and what does not. The best he could do was say: if the police have a good reason to believe a crime may have been committed, they file a report. That report then shows up to the Yomiuri Shimbun's 10 million readers as a "crime" committed by a foreigner.

A more typical, realistic example is a convenience store holdup in which the cashier says, I think they were foreigners. That, the NPA official confirmed, would be reported to the media as a crime committed by foreigners.

According to the NPA, the judicial system doesn't divulge data on convictions--obviously a far more meaningful statistic. Japan has a famously high conviction rate--more than 90 percent, I seem to recall--so surely the number of foreigners convicted of crimes would track the number of crimes suspected very closely. The NPA official told me that the judicial system considers the release of conviction information to be a violation of the arrested persons' civil rights--go figure. I pointed out that statistics don't generally include a list of the names of people convicted or acquitted. He just repeated that it's a human rights question.

A broadly held attitude in Japan is that due process is a naive nicety that hinders crime prevention. The widely held notion is: criminals don't deserve protection. Japanese journalists' disdain for simple truth in reporting crime statistics stems from that misunderstanding.

Posted by bunkerbuster

Anonymous said...

bunker, thanks. wow. 

Posted by tokyobk

Anonymous said...

I agree, the Japanese tend to view all foreigners as potential criminals while downplaying the wrong doings of Japanese. Also, the way they treat Asian foreigners is also very different from how they treat white forgeigners. They are a lot less polite & solicitous if you have brown skin.
The Japanese tend to be highly nationalistic, it's one of the reasons why they brush aside Pearl Harbor & their treatment of American POW's & only talk about Hiroshima.  

Posted by NY girl

Anonymous said...

Good point, NY girl: ``The Japanese...brush aside Pearl Harbor & their treatment of American POW's & only talk about Hiroshima.''

That contrasts sharply with Americans, whose political maturity, open-mindedness and rationalism compel them to examine in detail alleged torture and murder of POWs at Abu Ghraib and Bagram in Afghanistan.

Americans, unlike people in a lot of other countries, hold themselves and their government to the highest standards. They understand that criticizing themselves and their own country first is a measure of their strength, maturity and belief in the power of freedom and in the love of truth that is essential to maintaining a meaningfully free society.


Posted by bunkerbuster

Anonymous said...

The time has come to leave my friends. While the Japanese continue to deny the reality of organised crime`s stranglehold on their society (the Yakuza is responsible for most crime here including bribing police, officials and carrying out murders such as the one in Fukuoka using Chinese student lackeys to take the blame)and continue to allow right wing groups to cruise the streets and harass law-abiding citizens, there is no place for us in Japan.

Japan is going down the drain anyway. History shows that societies that shut themselves off from the world (as Japan still does in many ways apart from selling products to the rest of the world and hiring token gaijin to teach English, while becoming increasingly intolerant of the gaijin who don`t go home but pursue a career her) and thrive on an in-bred mentality ultimately erode themselves from within.

Join the increasing throngs of the best foreigners who will leave Japan soon. Let the Japanese enjoy their declining birthrate, crumbling security, immense debt, organised crime stranglehold and xenophobia. They deserve the future that awaits them. 

Posted by Sad, xenophobic Japan



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