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Japanese parliament passes resolution on China’s human rights situation

Lawmakers stand up to show their support as Japan's parliament adopts resolution on human rights in China at the lower house of the parliament in Tokyo, Japan February 1, 2022, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

As the Beijing Winter Olympics approaches, Japan’s parliament passed a resolution on the “severe human rights situation” in China, urging Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government to take action to alleviate the situation.

The news: Following a U.S.-led diplomatic boycott over worries about China’s human rights situation, Japan has already indicated it will not send a government delegation to the Games, but Tokyo has avoided publicly labelling its decision as such.

  • Since assuming office in October, Kishida has stated numerous times that Japan will not mince words when dealing with China, and in November, he named former defence minister Gen Nakatani as his human rights assistant.
  • The international community has raised concern over issues like imprisonment and religious freedom violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Tibet, and Hong Kong, according to the resolution passed by the lower chamber.
  • “Human rights issues cannot just be domestic issues, because human rights hold universal values and are a rightful matter of concern for the international community,” the resolution said.
  • “This chamber recognises changes to the status quo with force, which are symbolised by the serious human rights situation, as a threat to the international community,” it said.
  • In December, U.S. President Joe Biden approved legislation prohibiting imports from China’s Xinjiang area due to concerns about forced labour. Beijing’s handling of the Uyghur Muslim minority has been dubbed “genocide” by the United States.
  • China denies human rights violations in Xinjiang, a key cotton producer that also produces a large portion of the world’s solar panel materials.

What’s going on: Although there were concerns in the government about a potential economic impact, the conservative wing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sought ratification of the resolution ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics’ inauguration on February 4, according to Jiji news agency.

  • Within the LDP, there have long been divergent viewpoints on how to handle China. The conservative side of the party is hawkish on China policy and is seen as primarily concerned with defence problems. Other party members have campaigned to keep Japan’s close economic ties with its neighbour intact.
  • The parliamentary resolution urged Japan’s government to collaborate with the international community to address the problem.
  • “The government should collect information to grasp the whole picture … , monitor the serious human right situation in cooperation with the international community, and implement comprehensive relieving measures,” it said.
  • In a likely acknowledgment to close bilateral economic relations, the resolution avoided using the word “China” anywhere in the text and avoided phrases like “human rights violation,” instead using the phrase “human rights situation.”

China serves as a manufacturing powerhouse for Japan, as well as a market for everything from vehicles to construction equipment.

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