Minorities and the Constitution

It has seemed that most ideas of minority were created arbitrarily. For example, Sugihara struggled with the bad images of “Zainichi” in “Go”.  I can agree that these do not apply to almost all of the “Zainichi” and we may try to see as what we think they are, which means that we should not put any bad meanings to the minority. Then, we need to think carefully about how to treat minority groups in reality. Can we deny the concept of minority? Is it possible to take the legal framework of minority away from one country?

What I want to say in this post is not that “Ainu” or “Okinawan” people are struggling with their identities because they are in a minority group even though they have a Japanese nationality, and what the Japanese identity is, but that it is inevitable to create “minority” unless you believe that we, all people who live in this earth, are totally equal, sharing same value, culture, and denying the coexistence of  nations.

Then, I want to focus on how the Japanese constitution treats minorities, or foreigners. Since  it is only applicable to Japanese people, people who have a Japanese nationality, it is not supposed to guarantee the rights of non-Japanese. This is a intentional, but unmalicious creation of minority. Even if you say that human rights are natural, and inalienable rights, it is almost impossible to undermine the principle of popular sovereignty. For example, foreign residents are not allowed to have a suffrage by its nature. However, considering article 98, many people believe in theory that since some foreigners are domiciled in Japan and their lives can get directly effected by their local government , local suffrage should be allowed to them. Actually, the Constitution does just mention that “ The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them.” in article 15, and does not ban giving the voting right by law.

Then, what can they do? How about the degree of  their freedom in Japan? There are still lots of limitation of rights. Freedom of entry, re-entry, and stay are not guaranteed. The reason is that every state have its sovereignty and right to protect its  security from others, or foreigners. Even if you get permitted to enter one country, it does not mean that you can stay there, and (even if) you are free to leave, it does not mean that you are free to come back to the country.

Regardless of a matter of good or bad, creation of minority is unavoidable. As Sugihara said in the movie that the word of “Zainichi” implies that they are supposed to return to their country, this is totally true. However, the point of this problem is not the word itself, but the false interpretation of the significance. This would be the most difficult and perpetual problem.

※ Article 15 :  The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them.All public officials are servants of the whole community and not of any group thereof. Universal adult suffrage is guaranteed with regard to the election of public officials.

In all elections, secrecy of the ballot shall not be violated. A voter shall not be answerable, publicly or privately, for the choice he has made.

※ Article 98 : This Constitution shall be the supreme law of the nation and no law, ordinance, imperial rescript or other act of government, or part thereof, contrary to the provisions hereof, shall have legal force or validity.The treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed.

by Kudo

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2 thoughts on “Minorities and the Constitution

  1. I think it was a pretty decent post made by you. I think you did a pretty good job by connecting the minority problem in Japan to the Constitution of Japan. I have one question about the political rights of foreigners at municipal level. If it is not against the constitution, what is/are obstacle(s) to the holding of political rights of foreigners at municipal level, and how can the political rights of foreigners can contribute to the minority issue.

  2. Thank you for your comment on my post. In the municipal level, residents have a great influence, or highest validity of political rights. This means that foreigners “can” have the political rights, but the decision of whether to permit the rights or not is depend on electorates and assembly members who “know” the residents’ requirements. In short, bad images or prejudices toward foreigners can be included within their(residents’) political voice, and this is indeed the obstacle. Even if the political rights of foreigner are granted, this obstacle would not vanish. It may motivate foreigners in other areas, but we should not have a positive sight. We still need to think carefully that whether it would be a small but very important step to the minority issue or ends up in smoke.

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