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Japan's LDP conservative group wants to punish those who damage national flag

In this May 16, 2019 file photo, the Liberal Democratic Party's headquarters is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

TOKYO -- A conservative parliamentary group of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) put forward a proposal to submit a bill to revise the Penal Code by adding provisions to penalize individuals who damage the Japanese flag.

    The group made the proposal to submit the bill to the current Diet session in a Jan. 26 meeting with LDP policy chief Hakubun Shimomura at the party's headquarters. The parliamentary group stated, "We have gained the policy chief's approval," and said it will aim for its legislation while calling for cooperation among other political parties.

    Under the proposed bill, a criminal punishment of "imprisonment for two years or less, or a fine of up to 200,000 yen (about $1,930)" could be imposed on individuals who damage, remove, or defile the Japanese flag with the purpose of insulting the country. While the current Penal Code stipulates penalties for damage to flags of foreign countries, there are no provisions banning damage to the Japanese flag.

    Following the proposal, former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, an adviser for the conservative parliamentary group, told reporters, "It's not right that there are heavy criminal charges for damaging foreign flags, while the handling of the Japanese flag is treated as something that doesn't matter."

    The revision bill was also submitted to the Diet by Takaichi and others in 2012, when the LDP was not a ruling party, but was scrapped following opposition, including that from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations which claimed that the bill "has the risk of infringing on freedom of expression."

    Support for the bill has not spread among the ruling coalition as well. In a press conference on Jan. 26, Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the coalition partner Komeito, commented, "Our party hasn't even considered it before. It's important for the public to develop such an attitude of their own accord."

    (Japanese original by Shuhei Endo, Political News Department)

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