Abe passes controversial bill to increase surveillance

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government passed controversial legislation that gives prosecutors the power to monitor and arrest people in the planning stages of crimes.

As dawn broke in Tokyo yesterday, bleary-eyed lawmakers voted to pass the so-called anti-conspiracy bill, which the government says is needed to bolster counter-terrorism precautions ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Opposition lawmakers pulled out an array of political tricks to delay the vote until morning.

Under the bill, terrorist groups or criminal organisations could be punished for the planning of 277 crimes, which range from arson to copyright violation. Critics say the legislation is vague and could lead to the suppression of civil liberties and excessive state surveillance.

The legislative win paves the way for Abe to push ahead with his long-held ambition to revise the pacifist constitution that has defined Japan’s security policy since World War II. Last month, he proposed an amendment to recognise the existence of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces while maintaining Article 9, which renounces the right to war and prohibits land, sea and air forces. He wants the change to take effect by 2020.

Abe told reporters yesterday that the bill was passed to prevent terrorism and would be an appropriate, effective way to protect the lives of Japanese people, according to the Nikkei newspaper. Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside Parliament on Wednesday night to voice opposition to the bill. — Bloomberg