The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department yesterday charged Independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) with “assault, forced obstruction of police duty and disrespect toward a place of worship” and transferred the case to the Tokyo District Prosecutors’ Office.
Chin, a lawmaker representing an Aboriginal constituency, was accused of leading a group of 10 Taiwanese Aborigines into Yasukuni Shrine’s worship chamber without authorization on Aug. 11, 2009. Chin was also accused of assaulting a member of the shrine’s staff, injuring the staff member’s finger.
Chin said at the time the surprise demonstration was a bid to get the Japanese government to remove the names of Aborigines forced to fight in the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II from the shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead.
The group managed to reach the square in front of the main hall, chanting slogans and carrying banners demanding that Japan “give us back our ancestors’ spirits.”
Former Japanese legislator Shingo Nishimura subsequently filed a criminal lawsuit against Chin on the grounds that her actions were “an insult to the Japanese people.”
While collecting evidence on the case, the police department asked Chin for her opinions when she vacationed in Japan in February, but Chin declined to comment on the issue, saying “things in the past do not matter anymore.”
Noting that Chin had committed similar actions in 2005 and 2006, and had a record of being forcefully removed by police, and therefore “has a high chance of a repeat violation,” the police department noted on her transfer papers that “Chin’s actions were violent and despicable, and should be levied with heavy punitive measures.”
Article 188 of Japan’s Criminal Code states: “Any person who openly commits an insulting act against a shrine, temple, cemetery or any place of religious worship shall be punished with penal servitude or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or with a fine not exceeding ￥100,000 [US$1,300].”
“The penalty shall be penal servitude or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or a fine not exceeding ￥100,000, if the offender has disturbed or interfered with preaching, religious exercises or a funeral,” it adds.
It is rare for Japan to prosecute foreign legislators and Chin is also the first Taiwanese lawmaker to be considered a criminal suspect in Japan.
According to the police department, police cannot specify any other accomplices aside from Chin, and because she was currently residing in Taiwan, the police “could not arrest her.”
In response to the charges, Chin said she and her group have a video tape that shows what “really happened” at the shrine, which she said proved none of her group attacked the Japanese security guards.
“Even if I am indicted, no one can sway me from my resolve to have the names of those Taiwanese Aboriginal ancestors removed from Yasukuni Shrine,” she said, adding that she felt sorry that Japan, which she described as “a so-called democracy and free country,” had pressed charges.
“The whole world is watching,” she said.
TRANSLATED BY JAKE CHUNG, STAFF WRITER, WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA