economist – Japan’s illiberal secrecy law – The threat of merely screaming

On November 26th, as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) pushed a controversial secrecy bill through the lower house of the Diet, your correspondent walked by a line of protesters sitting calmly outside the building, holding signs against the proposed law. The nearest thing to violence was one middle-aged woman with a megaphone pumping a fist and chanting.

That makes it stranger still that in a blog post on November 29th, three days after the lower house passed the bill, Shigeru Ishiba, the LDP’s secretary-general and the party’s number-two, compared the people protesting against the new law to terrorists. Some of the demonstrations have been sizeable—one, on November 21st in central Tokyo, numbered in the thousands, but many of the protesters that day were elderly and as their march reached the Diet buildings they lowered their banners in obedience to orders from the police. Nonetheless, “the tactic of merely screaming is in essence little different from acts of terrorism”, wrote Mr Ishiba on his blog. Amid a storm of criticism he quickly softened his stance. Noisy demonstrations alone, he clarified in a speech on December 1st, do not constitute terrorism.