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Japan's new foreigner rule draws criticism

2024-06-21 10:06:22Source: chinadaily.com.cnAuthor: JIANG XUEQING

June 21, 2024 -- Japan's upper house of parliament has revised an immigration law, introducing a contentious provision that permits authorities to revoke permanent residence permits if foreign residents intentionally evade taxes or fail to pay social insurance premiums.

The amendment, passed by the House of Councilors on June 14, replaces a foreign trainee program with a new system aimed at addressing labor shortages.
However, the addition of the permit revocation rule has drawn strong criticism from permanent residents, immigrant communities and lawyers in Japan.
Opponents say that instead of revoking permanent residence permits for foreigners who deliberately fail to pay taxes or social insurance premiums, actions such as reminders and asset seizures, similar to those taken against Japanese citizens, would suffice.
The Immigration Services Agency of Japan said last month that a survey indicated about 10 percent of permanent residents in Japan had not paid their taxes or social insurance premiums.
Zeng Deshen, an adviser to the Yokohama Overseas Chinese Association, raised concerns about how Japanese authorities would determine if a foreigner is intentionally avoiding paying taxes and fees, which could lead to disputes.
Situations such as unemployment or illness could mistakenly be seen as deliberate attempts to evade tax obligations, he said.
Revoking a foreigner's permanent residence permit could significantly affect their life. For example, banks may stop granting long-term loans to such a foreigner, he said.
Chie Komai, a Tokyo-based attorney actively involved in protecting the human rights of foreigners, expressed concerns about the revised grounds for revoking permanent residence permits.
She criticized the inclusion of deliberate public nonpayment of taxes and fees, which encompasses situations where people intend to pay "but couldn't due to a sudden illness or loss of employment".
"This makes it seem as if permanent residents are being told, 'You are disposable if you become useless,'" she said.
"The fact that the authorities can easily destroy the foundation of permanent residents' lives whenever they change their mind not only causes significant anxiety in permanent residents' daily lives but also deeply wounds their self-esteem and dignity."
Moreover, the revised law allows for the cancellation of permanent residence permits for minor mistakes, such as not carrying a residence card, and a wide range of criminal offenses, including short prison terms. It signals to the entire Japanese society that it is acceptable to treat foreign and stateless residents lightly, Komai said.
Some permanent residents perceive such strict rules as unfair to foreigners and a form of discrimination.
"We hope the Japanese government will treat permanent residents in Japan and Japanese citizens equally," Zeng said.
Zeng, 84, recalled that in the 1950s, a porridge restaurant owner in Yokohama went to a bathhouse without carrying his foreign registration card. He was questioned by the police and detained at the police station overnight.
"I'm worried that similar cases might happen again," Zeng said.