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.
Japanese governments had tried three times previously to pass similar legislation, which officials say is needed to ratify a UN treaty aimed at global organised crime as well as to prevent terrorism as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics.
The legislation would criminalise plotting and preparing to commit 277 “serious crimes” that critics such as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations note include acts with no obvious connection to terrorism or organised crime, such as sit-ins to protest construction of apartment buildings or copying music.
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 the second world war. 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.
“This fits Abe’s agenda in the run-up to a prospective national referendum on constitutional revision, and Japan’s possible involvement in future wars,” said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.