TOKYO -- A University of Tokyo associate professor has come under fire for his tweets that critics point out constitute discrimination against Chinese nationals.
"(My company) will not hire Chinese people," Shohei Ohsawa, project associate professor at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies of the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the university, wrote on his Twitter account on Nov. 20.
In response to criticism of the tweet, Ohsawa defended himself with new tweets, saying, "Chinese people are useless at private commercial companies because their performance is poor" and "We wouldn't invite applicants for job interviews in the first place if it turned out they were Chinese. We'd reject them at the stage of document screening."
The additional tweets sparked further criticism, with one Twitter user saying, "His comments have raised suspicions that he doesn't understand fundamental human rights." Some people, however, empathized with Ohsawa. "It's only natural for a private company to protect its own interests," one user wrote.
Ohsawa continued to defend himself, tweeting on Nov. 25, "What I tweeted was my company's recruitment policy as a private firm and doesn't represent the University of Tokyo's views."
The University of Tokyo released its official view on the matter in the name of Noboru Koshizuka, dean of the department where Ohsawa works, stating that his tweets are "unrelated" to the activities of the faculty. The comment went on to say, however, "It's extremely regrettable that a member of the faculty made such post, and we apologize to those who felt uncomfortable."
"We never allow any form of discrimination, including that based on nationality, as well as intolerance in accordance with the University of Tokyo Charter, and we guarantee that our organization is open to everybody," the statement reads.
According to the university's PR department, Ohsawa taught a course on information economics sponsored by companies and individuals, and has been teaching some 100 students since this fall. Following his posts, Monex Group, Inc., a financial institution, and Aucfan Co., an internet services company, declared that they would discontinue sponsorship of the associate professor's open lectures that was scheduled to last until March 2024.
A Monex official stated on Nov. 24, "We're a company that respects diversity, and will not accept his sense of values. His comments are extremely regrettable." Aucfan also released a comment the following day, saying, "His comments are inconsistent with our management policy and never acceptable."
Takahiro Akedo, a project research associate at the same graduate school, pointed out that Ohsawa's comments "constitute hate speech that could generate a social climate in which people claim 'it's only natural for companies to refuse to hire Chinese people' or contribute to such opinion." He also rejected Ohsawa's claim that his tweets were unrelated to the university, saying, "The tweets were made on an account where he promotes himself as a University of Tokyo instructor. His counterargument doesn't hold water."
While the University of Tokyo has made no mention of punishment Ohsawa could face, Akedo urged that the university should punish him in a just manner regardless of his employment status without putting too much emphasis on public criticism of his comments.