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Kawasaki plans Japan's 1st ordinance punishing hate speech

Kawasaki municipal headquarters is seen in this March 14, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuo Ichimura)

KAWASAKI -- The city government here on June 24 announced a rough draft of a planned ordinance to fine those using hate speech targeting particular ethnic groups in public spaces.

If passed by the municipal assembly, it will be the first local regulation in Japan specifying criminal penalties over the deep-rooted social problem. Those accused of hate speech in places such as parks and public roads would be fined up to 500,000 yen. Officials in this city south of Tokyo aim to submit the bill to the assembly in December after seeking public comment, and implement its provisions by July 2020.

The draft would ban public proselytizing demanding people from specific countries or regions, or their descendants, be deported from Japan. It would also forbid open calls for harm against such people or their honor, and severely insulting them. Punishment would be applied for acts including using a loudspeaker, holding up a placard, distributing flyers, and shouting group chants.

Under the draft outline, when a hate speech incident is reported the mayor will be briefed by an advisory organization before issuing an advisory to the offending person or group to cease and desist. If the violator repeats the offense, the mayor will then order them to stop. If violations continue, the city government will file a complaint with investigative authorities.

A city official in charge of the planned ordinance said, "We decided to set up a double- and triple-step process before proceeding to criminal punishment so as to give proper consideration for the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in the Constitution."

(Japanese original by Kazuo Ichimura, Kawasaki Bureau)

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