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A new anti-conspiracy bill stirs controversy in Japan | The World Weekly

With Japan set to host the Rugby World Cup and Olympic Games within the next four years, hopes are high that an influx of tourists will stimulate a spending boom in a country which has long struggled with economic stagnation. Such high-profile events however can be prime targets for terror attacks, requiring special measures to ensure the safety of the attending masses. An “anti-conspiracy” bill making its way through Japan’s Diet is one such effort, though its contents have raised eyebrows. Will imposing harsher punishments for those running unlicensed motorboat races really protect against terror?

The controversial bill seeks to revise an existing act governing punishment and control of organised crime, placing 277 new offences under its scope and prescribing punishments for any terrorist group discovered to be preparing to commit one of these crimes.

Opponents fail to see how many of these new crimes are related to terrorism - alongside unlicensed motorboat races, illegal mushroom picking and capturing of endangered animals are among the added offences. Civil rights activists also worry about the potentially broad application of the bill. “I am concerned by the risks of arbitrary application of this legislation given the vague definition of what would constitute the ‘planning’ and the ‘preparatory actions’” of crimes listed in the act, wrote Joseph Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, in a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga shot back, calling the letter “strongly inappropriate”. The bill, the government protests, will be strictly aimed at terrorist and organised criminal groups, and is a necessary modernisation of Japan’s security legislation. “Japan, for the longest time, grossly lacked the legal framework to protect classified information, as well as the legal framework to counter terrorism,” Yuki Tatsumi, director of the Japan Programme at the Stimson Centre, told The World Weekly. “This is the very basic first step for Japan in the right direction.”

Regardless, many are worried about the ease with which Mr. Abe, faced by a weak opposition, seems able to push through legislation with little debate. In a recent Kyodo News poll, 77% of respondents said the government had not sufficiently explained the bill. Yet even as activists protested outside the Diet, it passed to the lower house on Tuesday with a large majority.

Though a scandal involving links to a nationalist school have landed him in the most turbulent period of his tenure so far, Mr. Abe still has political capital to burn.

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