Photo/IllutrationJustice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda, far right, appears calm as opposition lawmakers surround the chairman of the Lower House Judicial Affairs Committee session on May 19. (Takeshi Iwashita)

The ruling coalition rammed anti-conspiracy legislation through a Lower House committee on May 19 after angry opposition lawmakers rushed the chairman to complain about strong-armed tactics.

Following the ruckus in the Lower House Judicial Affairs Committee, the Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito are seeking a vote on the bills in the entire Lower House on May 23 before they are sent to the Upper House.

The government and ruling coalition want the bills passed during the current Diet session, which is scheduled to end on June 18. However, the session could be extended to allow for passage.

Opposition parties are trying to block passage, saying the legislation could lead to human rights violations concerning freedom of thought and conscience.

At the May 19 committee session, Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said, “This legislation contains highly effective means to prevent crimes organized beforehand, including terrorism.”

However, members of the main opposition Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party argued many aspects of the legislation had not been adequately dealt with.

Deliberations were suddenly cut off, and the bills were put to a vote.

Opposition party members then surrounded the chairman’s seat, but the vote went through.

The legislation covers 277 crimes and would make illegal even the planning or discussing of those possible crimes among members of an organized group.

The government has said passage of the legislation was a precondition for Japan joining the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC). It has also said the proposed law would make Japan safer during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

To ease passage of the legislation, the ruling coalition went along with a revision proposed by Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party). The change added wording that calls for “sufficient consideration to be given for appropriate implementation during police investigations, including questioning.”

Supplementary provisions call for discussions on making police interrogations of suspects more transparent through audio or video recordings, as well as setting up a structure to allow for the use of the global positioning system in police investigations.

But no revisions were made to deal with concerns that the law could restrict freedom of thought and conscience.

The Democratic Party argued that Japan could join the TOC even without the new legislation.

It also came up with 182 issues about the bills that it felt were not being addressed, including whether ordinary citizens could be targeted, the appropriateness of the crimes selected for coverage by the law and the connection between planning a crime and any preparatory actions.

(This article was written by Akira Minami and Ryujiro Komatsu.)