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Sunday, June 21, 2009

READERS IN COUNCIL

University welcome to weigh in


Sagamihara, Kanagawa

The writer of the June 14 letter "The protesters at Hosei University," which accuses The Japan Times of not telling all sides about the protests at Hosei University, surely could not have properly read my June 9 article, "Rumpus on campus." If he had, he would be aware that we quoted extensively from the university's Web site — the only source made available to us — and we also quoted students who were critical of the activists. The university was contacted several times and asked to explain its side of the case, but declined to do so, as did the police.

As for the accusation that the estimate of 1,500 demonstrators at an April 24 protest this year was an exaggeration, a time-honored tradition of public protests is that activists play up the numbers, police play them down and journalists cite both. Since there was only one figure available for my article — 1,500, according to the protesters — that was the one given. Now we have another; the letter writer says there were 200 protesters. But the letter writer is unable to explain the nature of the alleged "performance" in the photograph accompanying the article. I suggest that readers check out video images available online — which show track-suited security personnel forcibly ejecting students from campus at demonstrations — and make up their own minds.

Regarding arrest figures, there have been 110 arrests since the dispute began in March 2006, of which 32 involved Hosei students and 78 students from other universities. The writer is correct to say that some of these were repeat arrests and not, as I say in the article, "arrested students." Thirteen students from Hosei have been arrested and nine formally charged.

The main questions raised by the article remain unanswered: Was it necessary for the university to criminalize students? Some of them, it seems clear, were peripheral to this dispute. Does sending young people to detention centers for at least six months seem like a reasonable response to leafleting, sloganeering and ripping down university notices? It would be good to hear the university's explanation on these points.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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