SAPPORO--Forced sterilization under the old eugenics law extended to non-Japanese citizens living in Japan, according to records kept by Hokkaido prefectural authorities.

The documents released April 24 in response to a freedom of information request by The Asahi Shimbun show that the health ministry approved the controversial procedure for foreigners as well.

The Eugenic Protection Law, which was in force from 1948 until 1996, covered citizens who were deemed disabled intellectually or suffering from mental illnesses or hereditary diseases.

However, no records of actual operations on foreign citizens were found.

The Hokkaido prefectural government asked the predecessor of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in September 1950 if the law applied to a particular Chinese individual.

Two days later, the ministry replied, “the law applies to Chinese,” and “will notify (details) later.”

Nine days after the initial response, the ministry came back with details of who could be subjected to the law and sterilization program.

The answer outlined that it is “allowable to apply the law” to people with foreign citizenship living in Japan, namely “civilians of the Allied Powers,” “people of neutral countries, Germans, Italians,” and “those who are not subject to the Family Registration Law.”

“Civilians of the Allied Powers” is believed to refer to the United States and other nations that defeated Japan in World War II, while “those who are not subject to the Family Registration Law” apparently refers to Koreans and Taiwanese who were once considered Japanese under colonial rule.

According to the records kept by the ministry and other authorities, at least 16,475 individuals were subjected to forced sterilization under the program.

Of those, the Hokkaido prefectural government has confirmed 2,593 cases, a higher number than in any of the nation's prefectures.

The law was revised as the Maternal Health Law in 1996, and the provision concerning eugenic sterilization operations was removed.

(This article was written by Kenji Izawa and Hitoshi Tanohata.)