KAWASAKI--The Kawasaki city government is seeking to become the first municipality to implement fines against repeat hate speech offenders.

With its large population of ethnic Koreans, the city played a pioneering role in implementing guidelines in 2017 that restricted the use of public facilities by hate speech groups.

However, a high-ranking city government official conceded that such steps would not completely eradicate hate speech.

The official said criminal fines would help make various restrictions more effective.

At the June 19 session of the Kawasaki city assembly, Mayor Norihiko Fukuda expressed his intention to include fines in a proposed ordinance to eradicate discrimination that would place more restrictions on hate speech.

"We hope to compile it based on the consensus of local residents while holding the resolve to not allow for any form of discrimination and seeking to eliminate inappropriate discrimination," he said of the proposed ordinance.

Fukuda said levying fines was an option, while ensuring that the boundary of what is considered acceptable free speech is not crossed.

When asked what sort of individuals he had in mind as possible targets for the fines, Fukuda said "repeat offenders of hate speech."

Local residents who have long campaigned against groups making racist statements welcomed the move.

Tomohito Miura, secretary-general of a Kawasaki citizens' group opposed to hate speech, said, "I would like to express my heartfelt respect for the bold decision made by the city."

Choi Kang-ija, a third-generation ethnic Korean, added, "This will serve as a lantern of hope for people around Japan who are suffering (from hate speech). We would like to provide our support while observing developments in the city assembly."

City government officials said they knew of no other local government with provisions against hate speech that include fines for violators.

When the city government first outlined the anti-discrimination ordinance in March, it stated its intention to ban discrimination and hate speech based on ethnicity and national origin.

It added that proposed fines would be announced at the June city assembly if a consensus was reached.

Proposed monetary figures are expected to be presented to the city assembly in the near future and the city government will ask the public for their comments from this summer.

It will submit the ordinance at the December session of the city assembly and is seeking to enact the measure from fiscal 2020.

A high-ranking city government official said that in order to avoid criticism that the city government was arbitrarily defining what constituted hate speech, it will ask the public prosecutors office to make a decision on criminal complaints submitted by the city government regarding instances of hate speech.