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Japanese scholars submit over 140,000 signatures opposing PM's science council decision

University of Tokyo professor Jun Suzuki, right, and Nihon University professor Takahisa Furukawa are seen entering the Cabinet Office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 13, 2020, to submit a petition demanding that the prime minister retract his decision to deny the appointment of six scholars to the Science Council of Japan. (Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

TOKYO -- University professors demanding that the Japanese government retract its decision not to appoint six nominated scholars to the Science Council of Japan visited the Cabinet Office on Oct. 13 to deliver over 140,000 signatures collected in an online petition they launched against the government's move.

    In addition to the signatures, scholars submitted a letter of protest addressed to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stating that the government's action was "a violation of academic freedom and independence."

    The online petition was launched on Oct. 3 by Jun Suzuki, professor of the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology at the University of Tokyo, and Takahisa Furukawa, professor of the College of Humanities & Sciences at Nihon University. The number of signatories had reached 143,691 as of Oct. 12.

    The protest letter expressed a sense of crisis over the government's move, stating, "The essential state that the science council ought to be in has been tremendously harmed, and it may cause damage to society." It was also critical of the government not providing a reason for its action, stating, "Condoning the issue by staying silent makes society as a whole feel stifled, and could make the country liable to mishandling its future."

    After submitting the petition, professor Suzuki commented, "A substantial change in the government's interpretation of the law, like in this case, should not be undertaken without having discussions in the legislature."

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