Photo/IllutrationPolice officers line up to separate demonstrators bearing flags shouting hate speech, and people protesting them, in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward in 2016. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Tokyo metropolitan government has acknowledged that demonstrations staged in two wards in the capital earlier this year constituted hate speech against ethnic Koreans in Japan under its anti-hate speech ordinance.

This is the first time the metropolitan government has recognized hate speech as an offense since its ordinance to eradicate discrimination went into full force in April.

Tokyo officials with the government's human rights department announced the recognition Oct. 16.

The ordinance, however, contains no clause that penalizes offenders.

During a street rally in Nerima Ward on May 20, demonstrators shouted racist threats through loudspeakers: “Throw Koreans into Tokyo Bay,” and “Kick Koreans out of Japan and beat them to death.”

On June 16, a group of demonstrators marched in Taito Ward, shouting “Kick Koreans out.”

Local residents alerted metropolitan officials about the incidents.

Members of an expert panel set up by the Tokyo government examined the two incidents and concluded that the acts represented “unjustifiable discriminatory action” under the anti-hate speech law.

Based on the panel’s conclusion, the metropolitan government recognized the two cases as hate speech.

But the Tokyo government did not reveal the site for the demonstrations or names of people involved despite the ordinance, which suggests it as a measure to prevent recurrences.

A Tokyo official said the metropolitan government declined to release the details because the ordinance is “not to socially punish particular individuals and organizations,” and only meant to inform and educate residents that hate speech will not be tolerated.

In October 2018, Tokyo became the first government at the prefectural level in Japan to pass an anti-hate speech ordinance.