Just days before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, Japanese lawmakers passed a Diet resolution highlighting human rights issues in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. Specifically, the February 1 resolution calls for the “monitoring of serious human rights situations in cooperation with the international community,” and “implementation of comprehensive relief measures.”
The unusual resolution was no easy feat. An initial, more strongly worded measure explicitly named the Chinese government while using terms such as “condemnation” and “human rights abuses.” However, Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s coalition partner, reportedly pushed back, fearing such tough rhetoric might cause diplomatic frictions. Although many ruling and opposition lawmakers criticized the watered-down resolution, it passed the lower house by a majority vote.
The resolution appears to be the latest manifestation of Japan’s increasingly outspoken stance against the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations, all the while being careful not to anger one of its largest trade partners. Tokyo has also signed on to statements with dozens of other governments condemning Beijing’s rights violations, and, most recently, announced it would not send senior government officials to the Olympics opening ceremony. It refrained, however, from calling this decision a “diplomatic boycott,” which other governments have done.
The Japanese government should build on this new momentum by forcefully denouncing the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims and other grave rights abuses. Tokyo can be a leader in pressing the United Nations high commissioner for human rights to publish a long-awaited report on Xinjiang, and jumpstart the call of 50 UN human rights experts to establish a mechanism to monitor and report on human rights in China.
The Diet has given the Japanese government a roadmap for longer-term, more rigorous responses to a profound human rights crisis. Tokyo would do well to take up that charge.