China thumbs nose at Japan, sends asylum seekers on their way.
May 22, 2002 6:21 PM   Subscribe

China thumbs nose at Japan, sends asylum seekers on their way. A happy ending (beginning) for five North Korean asylum seekers who were dragged out of the Japanese consulate in Shenyang by Chinese police -- with more than tacit initial approval from local Japanese officials.
posted by Bixby23 (3 comments total)
The really interesting thing about this incident, to me, is how folks in Japan reacted when the videotape of the incident first hit the news -- "Damn those dirty Chinese. How can they just enter our consulate like that?" -- and how they've reacted since the Ministry's blatant (but very hush-hush until now) anti-immigrant policy has been exposed for all to see -- "Damn, we suck..." Hopefully this very public embarrassment for the Foreign Ministry will be a catalyst for change. Then again, Japan? Change? Hope for best, but don't hold breath.

BTW, a post about this incident appeared not too long after it occurred on May 8, but most of the comments veered off on a tangential discussion about China's labor policies, so I didn't bother to link to it. If you want to see it, though, don't worry, I'm sure the "double post" patrol will be along in a moment...
posted by Bixby23 at 6:31 PM on May 22, 2002

Bixby, it would have been helpful to include some of this background material, as the linked article barely hints at it. First, video showed that consular officials did not act to prevent the entry of the Chinese police, which severely embarrassed Japan, who had taken the official position that it was a violation of diplomatic sovereignty and either had been lied to by their own people or were hoping it would blow over before it was found out. Then there was a debate on the overall asylum and refugee policy, even as Japan stuck to its guns on the refugees' freedom. And since China has returned other asylum-seekers (who have approached other consulates but are usually arrested before entering them) back to North Korea -- so I don't see why they would be fighting Japan for the release of the refugees to the Philippines or anywhere else. There's no question that Japan's white hat has been rubbed in the dirt; but how, exactly, are you seeing the Chinese as the good guys here?
posted by dhartung at 9:04 PM on May 22, 2002

Hmm. Okay, lemme try to explain myself here. And thanks for posting the additional sources. Point taken about being more helpful -- while there are gazillions of reasons why a post might deserve few or no comments, this post might have attracted more interest if I had included a more thorough recap of the situation.

Since CNN, NPR, and major networks all ran the initial story about the failed attempt to break into the consulate, I'd made the assumption that the basics of the situation were already common knowledge. I checked the same major news sources again after Tokyo TV news programs yesterday reported that the five were being sent to a third country, and this morning when it was reported that they'd arrived in South Korea. None of the sites that I checked had any report on this (not that it was an exhaustive search, by any means). I thought MeFiers might like to know how everything turned out and posted the site which, as you point out, dhartung, doesn't give much background on the situation either.

As to seeing the Chinese as the good guys here, I suspect this is something you inferred rather than something I said or suggested. What I would argue, though, is that Japan's foreign ministry lied outright in this case, and that the same cannot be said, necessarily, about the Chinese. The CNN article about Japan "sticking to its guns," while a balanced article, presents a fairly sensationalist title and is pretty darn generous in portraying the Japanese attitude toward immigrants as "lukewarm." More importantly, though, the article never points out that protests from Japan's foreign ministry only came several hours after the video was broadcast and rebroadcast on Japanese TV. I think it is silly to believe that the Japanese government would have, erm, stuck to their guns, and made such a flap of this incident -- completely embarrassing themselves in the process, I might add -- if there were no videotaped proof that the incident ever occurred.

So, although it makes me sound like a pompous ass to suggest it, I wish you would reread my first statement (and even this one). You'll be hard-pressed to find any implication that I somehow see the Chinese as good guys. I haven't given my opinion on the Chinese government one way or the other, and I'm not going to -- well, not in this thread, anyway -- because it's irrelevant. All I'm saying is that the Japanese branded themselves as a bunch of hypocrites and liars with this incident, and maybe a second good thing will come of it along with the freeing of five refugees from North Korea: a reformation of Japan's immigration policies. Hope I've clarified my rationale somewhat. Lemme know if I'm still weak.
posted by Bixby23 at 11:32 PM on May 22, 2002

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