Photo/Illutration Anti-hate speech activists protest a meeting in Kawasaki in June 2018. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

KAWASAKI--An anti-hate speech ordinance that stipulates a criminal penalty for violators was enacted here on Dec. 12 as part of efforts to stamp out discrimination against ethnic Koreans born in Japan and others.

It is the first hate speech ordinance in Japan to stipulate criminal punishment.

Hate speech has been a problem in the city home to many ethnic Koreans, prompting the central government to enact a related law in 2016. However, it only provided basic principles for dealing with the problem and did not include provisions for punishing perpetrators.

Similar ordinances introduced by Osaka city, the Tokyo metropolitan government and other municipalities do not stipulate a criminal penalty.

The criminal punishment section of the Kawasaki city ordinance will come into effect in July 2020. Hate speech perpetrators who repeatedly use discriminatory words toward residents with roots in foreign countries and their descendants could face a fine of up to 500,000 yen ($4,600).

The ordinance targets behavior including remarks such as "Get out of Japan," "You should die" and "You are a cockroach" in public places, using loudspeakers, banners, fliers and other means.

In the first stage, the mayor, hearing opinions from an examination panel, will request or order that suspected hate speech perpetrators halt such activities. If the behavior continues, the mayor will file a criminal complaint.

In the event that they are prosecuted and found guilty in court, fines would be imposed.

Hate speech and related behavior over the Internet is also a serious problem, but the ordinance does not target such material partly owing to difficulties with identifying the individuals behind them.