Change police protocols
The difficulty for 'foreigners' . . .
It's difficult enough just being a 'foreigner' in any country. It's a tall order moving to an entirely new place, becoming accustomed to entirely new surroundings and, quite often, an entirely new way of life. A new society, a new language, new laws, new customs and even new food can all be very disconcerting.
Not exactly a 'welcoming committee'
The vast majority of non-Japanese and naturalized citizens in Japan are decent, hard-working people who are simply trying to live their lives while attempting to find their way in a new culture - a culture that's vastly different from the one they left behind. Indeed, current law enforcement protocols only make matters more difficult. People in Japan are routinely stopped by the police and questioned for no apparent reason other than the fact that they look like a 'foreigner.' This practice is neither right nor fair.
Police are an absolute necessity . . .
Now, of course, if some form of unlawful or disorderly conduct prompts law enforcement officials to challenge an individual (whether natural citizen or otherwise), we have absolutely no opposition to that - indeed, it is their job. We even find no fault in questioning a person if his or her dress seems in some way suspicious (for instance, if they are wearing a ski mask in warm weather and carrying a very large crowbar). However, when people are stopped and questioned solely on the assumption that 'they must be foreigners' because of their natural appearance, when they are prodded to show a passport or asked if they are carrying a pocket knife, those actions demean the recipients and make an absolute mockery of the "Yokoso Japan" campaign.
But with new protocols . . .
Does Japan think that such police protocols foster goodwill and create an atmosphere that warmly invites people from around the world (not to mention the international community that is already here) to come and settle in? We don't think so. This country must look after its standing and reputation in the global community by carefully considering the message that such actions invariably send.
- Having been questioned in Narita Airport as I was collecting a friend flying in, I believe the current practice on carding people by appearance is not only racially questionable, but also totally ineffective. It assumes nationality can be derived by appearance. It can't because a) there are residents in Japan who look Japanese but are not (and thus might avoid questioning) b) there are residents in Japan who don't look Japanese but in fact are (naturalisation being an obvious one) There are two main acceptable solutions. Either a) force every adult resident (citizen and non-citizen) to have an ID card (which many other Asian countries do, e.g Korea/HK/Malaysia), and maintain proper standards on making sure that people questioned are according to general patterns of the populace or... b) do away with current carding system in general. -A.B., Software Engineer [Tokyo]
- Myself and many 'foreign' friends here (as we are clumped into one group in a xenophobic naive way) feel strongly that this inhumane treatment is not representative of democratic society. Would any Japanese citizen appreciate this hostile treatment when going to another nation? -Nathaniel, Manager [Niigata]
- Police should clearly explain their reason for stopping and questioning any indvidual. This should be a mandatory requirement regardless of nationality. -K.E.
- I was stopped three times last week. Twice by the same cop. -William Carrell [Osaka]
- Not looking native should not be grounds for identity checks in a country that aspires to eradicate discrimination (let's hope Japan has that aspiration). Having the power is the surest way for police to abuse it. -R.T., [Tokyo]
- I have never been personally 'carded,' but I do know those who have...usually because of skin color, which is in itself a form of discrimination. Only Nazis ask for "papers" at public gathering places. We do not live in a 1930s ghetto...I hope! -Name withheld, Teacher [Nara]
- Why should we pay taxes if the police are going to harass us?! OUR taxes help pay their wages! Without us, they wouldn't have jobs. Also foreign crime is on the decline where japanese crime is increasing. All they have succeeded in doing here is to make foreigners more angry at Japan and its police. -Aly Rustom Teacher [Saitama]
- No foreigner should be subject to any police interrogation causing embarassment and humilation without any probable cause. -Joy [Hiroshima]
- Police are supposed to not only respect, but PROTECT the rights of the people, no matter what race, language, nationality or creed. Japanese police should be no different. I would like to feel SAFE when I see a police car patrolling my neighborhood. From my experiences over the last 5 years in Japan, my first impulse when seeing a uniformed officer is to turn the opposite direction. -T.P. [Osaka]