The ruling bloc of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passed controversial legislation on Thursday, June 15, that gives the government broad authority to target alleged terror conspiracies by criminalizing the planning or commission of 277 different acts. The bill, which the government has argued is needed in order to bolster security ahead of the 2020 Olympics and to comply with a UN agreement on combating transnational organized crime, has been opposed largely on civil liberties grounds, with critics arguing the broad and imprecise language in the law could be used to monitor and target ordinary citizens who commit acts completely unrelated to terrorism.
Protests in opposition to the legislation have occurred in recent weeks, including one attended by thousands of people outside parliament during the evening of Wednesday, June 14. Further protests are likely in the coming days.
Broadly speaking, the new law criminalizes some 277 different acts or the preparation (e.g., procuring funds or supplies, surveying locations) to commit such acts. Furthermore, an entire group (two or more people) can be charged with a crime if just one member is found to have violated the new law. Controversially, in addition to serious crimes the legislation bans minor offenses like copying music, taking part in sit-in protests against construction projects, and picking mushrooms in conservation forests. The government has argued these lesser crimes could be committed in association with larger criminal operations (e.g., procuring funds for nefarious activities).
The controversial legislation, which was pushed through parliament by bypassing usual formalities, comes amid an escalating political scandal. An opposition party recently accused Abe of improperly influencing the approval of a government-funded veterinary school at a university owned by one of his friends. Abe has denied any wrongdoing.
Individuals in Japan are advised to monitor the situation, avoid any protests, and adhere to all laws issued by government authorities.
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