Japan court issues first ruling on same-sex marriage rights
- The Sapporo District Court found the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law.
- Six plaintiffs had also sought damages for the lack of extension of marriage rights, which the court did not grant.
- While homosexuality has been decriminalized in Japan since the late 19th century, the country remains the only Group of Seven nation that has not recognized full marriage equality.
“In landmark ruling, Japan court says it is ‘unconstitutional’ to bar same-sex marriage” (Reuters | March 2021)
“Japan court says same-sex marriage should be allowed” (The Associated Press | March 2021)
“Japan court finds same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional” (BBC News | March 2021)
Revelations of surveillance regimes in China detail wide range of repressive projects
- An investigation of a database used by the Ürümqi City Public Security Bureau and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau reveals elements of the internment regime, the use of informants, and the monitoring of phone, financial, medical, and online records of Uyghur residents.
- The investigation follows recent revelations of the development of facial recognition technologies designed to identify ethnicity and flag individuals for authorities.
- Officials routinely detain Uyghur individuals as “preventative” security measures, often using trumped up accusations of religious extremism that effectively criminalize religious activities and other cultural practices.
“Revealed: Massive Chinese Police Database” (The Intercept | January 2021)
Patenting Uyghur Tracking – Huawei, Megvii, More (IPVM | January 2021)
“Huawei tested AI software that could recognize Uighur minorities and alert police, report says” (The Washington Post | December 2020)
People of African descent in Guangzhou face heightened discrimination amid COVID crisis
- Afro-descendant residents of Guangzhou, home to one of the largest Black populations in China, have reportedly been evicted and rendered homeless, had businesses targeted, been profiled by police, and subject to other discriminatory responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- As the country has reported an overall decline in COVID-19 transmission, anti-Black discrimination has been tied to increased fears about the reintroduction of the virus from foreigners driven by misinformation.
- The situation has ignited a diplomatic firestorm, with African political leaders expressing outrage on social media and the U.S. Consulate General cautioning Black Americans against travel to Guangzhou.
“Africans in Guangzhou are on edge, after many are left homeless amid rising xenophobia as China fights a second wave of coronavirus” (CNN | April 2020)
“How foreigners, especially black people, became unwelcome in parts of China amid COVID crisis” (ABC News | April 2020)
“China fails to stop racism against Africans over Covid-19” (The Guardian | April 2020)
Uyghur graveyards demolished in China
- Recent investigations have uncovered more than 100 burial grounds that have been destroyed by the Chinese government.
- The Chinese government claimed that the graves had been “relocated” due to urban development demands, but other official justifications included “standardization” and the government’s desire to “promote cultural and ideological progress.”
- Cemeteries occupy a significant role in Uyghur cultural life, serving as both resting places and social spaces, and their demolition coupled with the destruction of Uyghur coffins, shrines, and mosques has further substantiated ongoing cultural genocide in Xinjiang.
“More than 100 Uyghur graveyards demolished by Chinese authorities, satellite images show” (CNN | January 2020)
“‘No space to mourn’: the destruction of Uygur graveyards in Xinjiang” (Agence France-Presse, via The South China Morning Post | October 2019)
“China ‘building cark parks and playgrounds’ over Uighur Muslim graveyards ‘to eradicate ethnic group’s identity’” (The Independent | October 2019)
“Then and now: China’s destruction of Uighur burial grounds” (The Guardian | October 2019)
“Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines” (B.K. Sintash and the Uyghur Human Rights Project | October 2019)
Medical university in Tokyo found to have altered women candidates’ scores on entrance exam
- A probe found that Tokyo Medical University, one of Japan’s most prestigious medical schools, systematically boosted male applicants’ scores while cutting female applicants’ in an effort to reduce women’s admission to the school.
- Investigators discovered that scores on the exam had been affected for at least a decade, driven by admissions officers’ belief that parental obligations would interfere with women’s commitment to the profession.
- The discovery was found amidst a broader investigation into corruption involving the alleged admission of a government official’s child in exchange for subsidies.
“Tokyo Medical University admits subtracting points from repeat male applicants’ scores and boosting others to secure donations” (The Japan Times | August 2018)
“‘Makes me shake with rage’ – Japan probe shows university cut women’s test scores” (Reuters | August 2018)
“‘Betrayed’: victims of Tokyo medical school scandal speak out” (The Guardian | August 2018)
The Transnational Oppression of Uyghur Chinese
Growing paranoia over terrorism by and radicalization of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority has led to the dramatic expansion of state surveillance activities in Xinjiang—where Uyghurs account for nearly half of the population—and abroad. Digital surveillance, travel restrictions, indefinite detention, “reeducation” camps, and the exploitation of intra-community and transnational relationships have dramatically expanded the crackdown on ethnic minorities perceived as threats to the integrity of the state. After fleeing China, Uyghur emigrants find themselves and their families (some of whom remain in China) subject to harassment by Chinese security forces in places as far flung as Istanbul and Washington, D.C. BuzzFeed News and The Globe and Mail have profiled a number of Uyghur Chinese in exile and the oppressive conditions they and their families face, including high levels of distrust and fear of advocacy.
“Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again” (BuzzFeed News | July 2018)
“How China is targeting its Uyghur ethnic minority abroad” (The Globe and Mail | October 2017)
“‘It is about Xi as the leader of the world’: Former detainees recount abuse in Chinese re-education centres” (The Globe and Mail | July 2018)
“One in 10 Uyghur Residents of Xinjiang Township Jailed or Detained in ‘Re-Education Camp’” (Radio Free Asia | June 2018)
Uyghur Human Rights Project
China’s Growing Body Art Movement
Changing economic and cultural conditions in socially conservative China have given birth to a burgeoning body art movement, and Chinese women are battling mores to ink up. Shanghai in particular has become the center of tattoo production in the country, with some estimates putting the number of tattoo artists in China’s largest city as high as 2,000. While several ethnic groups (including the Dulong, Dai, and Li) have had historical tattooing traditions, contemporary Chinese body art has emerged from the relaxation of legal and cultural prohibitions on tattooing in China and the resurgence of tattooing in global popular culture. For women in particular, body art has come to mark an assertion of both identity and bodily autonomy. Recent media coverage has chronicled the dismantling of the tattoo taboo and the uptake of body art among Chinese women.
“Tattooed and proud: Chinese women peel away stigmas” (Agence France-Presse, via France 24 | December 2017)
“Good girls, not gangsters? Tattoos no longer taboo in China” (CNN | August 2015)
“Shanghai Inked: The Artists Redefining Tattoos in China” (That’s Shanghai | November 2015)
Wen Shen: The Vanishing Art of Chinese Tribal Culture
South Korean soldier convicted of same-sex sexual activity
- South Korea’s military court sentenced him to a six-month suspended prison sentence under the Military Criminal Act, which will lead to a dishonorable discharge.
- While same-sex relations are not illegal for civilians, the South Korean military code criminalizes homosexual activity by military personnel, among which all able-bodied men must serve for two years.
- Human rights organizations have reported that military leaders have ordered the revelation and tracking of gay military members, though the army has denied the allegations.
“South Korean military court hands army captain suspended prison sentence for having gay sex with fellow soldier” (The Independent | May 2017)
“Korean soldier convicted of gay sex” (The Korea Times | May 2017)
“South Korean soldier given suspended jail term for gay sex” (BBC News | May 2017)
High court opens door to marriage equality in Taiwan
- The Council of Grand Justices ruled that the section of the Taiwanese Civil Code banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
- The decision compels the government to revise the Code in accordance with the ruling, though it leaves open the question as to how that will be done.
- Once legally enshrined, the ruling will make Taiwan the first Asian country to secure marriage equality for its LGBT citizens.
“Same-sex Marriage: Marriage restrictions ‘unconstitutional’” (The Taipei Times | May 2017)
“Taiwan Is Set To Become The First Asian Country To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage” (BuzzFeed News | May 2017)
“Court Ruling Could Make Taiwan First Place in Asia to Legalize Gay Marriage” (The New York Times | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Tyrone Siu/Reuters, via The New York Times)
First female chief executive chosen in Hong Kong
- Carrie Lam was elected chief executive of Hong Kong by an electoral committee in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, inheriting growing divisions between a youth-led pro-democracy movement and increasing Beijing influence.
- The election was mired in controversy as the committee is stacked with pro-China business and political figures, seen by critics as promoting more Communist Party control over Hong Kong affairs.
- Lam led the failed effort to reform Hong Kong’s electoral process, in which Beijing sought to pre-screen candidates before presenting options for direct popular vote.
“Carrie Lam Wins Vote to Become Hong Kong’s Next Leader” (The New York Times | March 2017)
“Hong Kong’s first female leader a ’tilted bridge’ over troubled water” (Reuters | March 2017)
“Newly elected Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows to unite sharply divided city” (South China Morning Post | March 2017)
(Image Credit: Bobby Yip/Reuters)
Death of Vietnamese man in Japanese immigration center renews concerns about immigration protocols
- Van Huan Nguyen died in the East Japan Immigration Center in Ibaraki prefecture northeast of Tokyo.
- Nguyen had originally come to Japan as one of more than 11,000 refugees the country took in in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, though the cause of his detention has not been stated.
- Nguyen’s death is one of more than a dozen in immigration detention facilities since 2006 and comes as Japan’s at times suspicious and unwelcoming treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers—including poor medical care in detention, familial separation, and its provisional release conditions—has faced renewed international scrutiny.
“Vietnamese detainee dies in Japan’s immigration center: sources” (Reuters | March 2017)
“Japan forces a harsh choice on children of migrant families” (Reuters | November 2016)
“Inmates on hunger strike at Japanese immigration detention centre” (Reuters | July 2016)
(Image Credit: Yuyu Shino/Reuters)
North Korea and Malaysia institute exit bans on each other’s citizens
- North Korea’s frustration at Malaysia’s handling of the investigation into the murder of the half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un led to the announcement of a ban on the departure of Malaysian nationals from the country.
- Malaysian PM Najib Razak responded by initially banning the departure of North Korean diplomatic staff before extending it to all North Koreans.
- Two people—an Indonesian woman and a Vietnamese woman—have been charged in the homicide, though they claim they believed to have been taking part in a prank.
“Kim Jong-nam death: Malaysia and N Korea in tit-for-tat exit bans” (BBC News | March 2017)
“North Korea, Malaysia’s diplomatic ties frayed over Kim Jong Nam’s death” (CNN | March 2017)
“Malaysia says talks on with North Korea for return of nine citizens” (Reuters | March 2017)
(Image Credit: Lai Seng Sin/Reuters)
Growing scandal over ultra-nationalist kindergarten exposes battle over education in Japan
- The Tsukamoto Kindergarten has drawn attention for promoting notions of Japanese “purity” and “uniformity” and racist statements made about Koreans and Chinese.
- Ideological education has become a growing point of contention between liberals and conservatives, with the former worrying that so-called “traditional education” indoctrinates young children with the same ultranationalist spirit that fueled Japanese imperial expansion and led to World War II.
- The school sits at the center of an expanding political scandal involving Japan’s First Lady and a suspicious deal that allowed the land on which the school was built to be purchased from the government at a steep discount.
“Nationalist Osaka preschool draws heat for distributing slurs against Koreans and Chinese” (The Japan Times | February 2017)
“Bigotry and Fraud Scandal at Kindergarten Linked to Japan’s First Lady” (The New York Times | February 2017)
“Shinzo Abe and wife under pressure over ties to ultra-nationalist school” (The Guardian | February 2017)
(Image Credit: Ha Kwiyeon/Reuters, via The New York Times)
Chinese feminist group’s social media accounts suspended
- The Weibo account for prominent feminist group Feminist Voices was recently suspended, with the group’s social media editor suspecting posts about anti-Trump demonstrations in the U.S. having spurred the gag.
- Weibo administrators indicated the group will be unable to post through the account for 30 days for “violating national laws.”
- Beyond the suspension, activists reported broadening crackdowns on feminist activity, including social media attacks by commentators paid by the government to support the Chinese Communist Party on social media.
“Chinese Feminist Group’s Social Media Account Suspended” (The New York Times | February 2017)
“Chinese Feminists Protest Gag Order on Social Media Account” (Radio Free Asia | February 2017)
“Women In China Are Protesting After A Feminist Account Was Shut Down For Posting About The Women’s March” (BuzzFeed News | February 2017)
(Image Credit: Feminist Voices, via The New York Times)