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Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005

THE ZEIT GIST

IC scheme gets frosty reception

Community Page readers give their views on IC card policy for foreigners

Why the mistrust?

I've lived in Japan for almost three years now, and I find the treatment of most foreigners in Japan is, in my opinion, fine. However, the potential damage of chipping, tracking, and who knows what else, will, I'm sure, deter people from traveling here.

Why such mistrust of foreign nationals? There is a genuine lack of understanding of foreign nationals in Japan.

I do not want to generalize, as I have many friends that think and know differently. These people have, however, traveled abroad. The IC card is a disgraceful act of invading personal privacy, and a foreign national should have the choice to enter Japan without the barrage of red tape. Japan is outdated with its policies on foreigners entering Japan.

D. in Kochi

Can of worms

The proposed IC card to track foreigners through electronic computer surveillance is indeed a potentially terrifying problem, whereby in the future the government and corporations (and criminals who steal the technology) could know your whereabouts and daily activities.

Talk about a can of worms.

Richard in Tokyo

Pointless politics

Rather than the IC card being an outrageous tool with which to curb so-called foreign crime, the whole plan actually makes it clear how little of a threat the government sees the foreign population here.

If foreigners were really as scary and dangerous as the government would like to suggest, then why would they choose such an impractical and unworkable means of keeping them in check?

While I'd like to think they're just fooling themselves, though, it seems over my time here that they've been fairly successful in fooling the entire population bar a bewildered foreign community.

Flashy but unworkable schemes such as an IC card just for the foreign population (though they'll probably try and foist it on the Japanese population aswell) are typical of Japan's dysfunctional and disingenuous political system. Or maybe the country just wants to be seen to be implementing the most modern system of fomenting mistrust toward its minorities. I would have thought that, what with a pack of complete lightweights having just been elected to run the country, Japan would have more serious political issues to deal with than a bunch of harmless English teachers.

G in Tokyo

Ineffective but intrusive

I understand and agree with Debito Arudou's concerns that an IC card will not curb foreigner-related crime but instead place all foreigners under suspicion.

This is something I find abhorrent, since the overwhelming majority of us are law-abiding citizens who have no intention of committing a crime and should not be prejudged otherwise.

Moreover, I find it difficult to believe that scanning an IC chip will be any more effective for managing the foreign population, including tourists, than the current system is.

I have long suspected also that the IC gaijin card is merely a means of testing the system before it is introduced to the Japanese citizenry as a whole. I wonder what proponents of the IC card will say then.

T. in Osaka

Get used to it

I believe Japan will come to appreciate the IC card system.

Malaysians have been carrying ID cards since independence.

However, Malaysia keeps looking at ways to improve the system -- for example, we now have a SmartCard with a chip in it that contains medical, bank, traffic offense records, passport details and even a touch screen toll payment system.

People here are used to the idea of an IC card, and if the police do a round-up of foreign criminals, one would have to show the card to avoid deportation.

In terms of abusing the information on the car, well that's nothing new. Why do fliers and various promotional letters arrive in your mailbox without you asking for them? Your information is circulating around all the time and there are many means other than your IC card from which people can get your personal information.

V. in Malaysia

Clearly racist

We are going to be fingerprinted and forced to carry I.D. 24-hours a day. Employers and local authorities (and even hotel staff) will be watching our movements and checking our details. Maybe we will have to give up our seats to a Japanese national when we are on the bus.

It sounds like a familiar story wherein a minority are the cause of all social ills. If there are benefits in carrying an IC card and it offers protection to all, then why not have everyone carry one? If you only select a race, a certain skin color etc. to carry this card, then there is only one word for it -- racism.

Even in the Japanese language, it is acceptable to call someone a "half." This is blatantly racist, but nobody here seems to have given the slightest bit of thought to that.

How should a parent in an international relationship explain to their own child that the society they live in looks upon them as an underclass and threat -- even though it's their own society.

In a land of rising nationalism, we must be watchful and mindful of the past. Extreme nationalism starts with a single step, and I worry how many steps this government may take.

The U.N. recently said that Japanese has issues regarding racism, but the Japanese government said that there are no problems. I guess if you don't want to see, hear, or speak about it, then it doesn't exist. It's up to the foreign community to make them see, hear and speak about it.

S. in Japan

Japan's loss

In response to Debito Arudou's article, I would like to point out that although foreigners may not vote in Japan, they do decide whether they will visit, or have any other "contact" with, Japan.

As the proposed law would apply to all foreigners in Japan, there may be little that foreign workers may do, since they are dependent upon Japan for their livelihoods.

However, if Koizumi is intent upon increasing tourism and foreign contact, something like the "IC" and fingerprinting of tourists, may very well prove to be counterproductive. There are too many other foreign cultures one can visit to waste time being tracked, spied-upon, and monitored by foreign governments.

The degree to which this represents an invasion of privacy is of an extent heretofore only known in totalitarian or dictatorial nations. The tactic may not drive all tourism away from Japan, but it will change (for the worse) the view foreigners have of this country.

Ultimately, foreign people will vote with their wallets. That is the way of democracy and capitalism. One would think that Japan, above all other nations, would appreciate that fact.

Joseph in St. Louis

Scary policy

As the mother of a someone who teaches English in Japan, this policy scares the hell out of me.

I find this Big Brother routine very scary. The U.S. is bad enough with its antics since 9/11, but this proposal being put forward in Japan is ludicrous. Foreigners create crime? I will not totally disagree with that, but most, if not all of the companies that hire young people to come and teach in Japan are very careful in the screening of their prospective employees.

My son had Japanese language credits and took Asian history as well, so that he would be better prepared to go to Japan. What he was not prepared for was being pointed at, stared at and laughed at.

He is resilient and determined to give it his all and he will stick it out, but I can now finally understand those who after a couple of months come home terrible discouraged.

It totally infuriates me to see such intolerance of others.

J. in Canada

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