Undercover police made an incursion into Kyoto University today (November 4th), following the arrests of anti-government protestors in Ginza on November 2nd. At around midday students allegedly detained a male plainclothes police officer they exposed on the Yoshida-South Campus. After holding him for a time in a building on the campus, he was eventually then let go in the late afternoon through the intervention of the university. Social media has been abuzz with images of police officers on and the near the campus as the four-hour “kidnapping” continued. Many details remain unverified at time of writing.
On November 2nd police in Tokyo arrested three Chūkaku-ha student activists during the demo march through Ginza following a large rally held in Hibiya, organised annually by the railway labour union Dōrō-Chiba (affiliated with Chūkaku-ha). Two of the students were Kyoto University students, while the third may be connected to the Bunka Renmei, the unofficial student group locked in a years-long campus conflict with Hōsei University. The police continue to arrest members on minor charges to harass them, though it only hardens their resolve. The public security police officer was likely on the Kyoto University campus investigating further links to the arrested protestors.
Images like this have been popping up online, though the exact nature of what and who they depicted is as yet unclear.
Some are already coining the day’s event the Kyoto University Poporo Incident, after the controversial Poporo Incident in 1952, in which undercover security police were exposed during a theatre performance on the grounds of the University of Tokyo, detained and beaten up by leftist students. Two students were arrested but subsequently acquitted when the court initially ruled the police incursion onto the campus had been illegal. The case mushroomed into a long court battle over the constitutional liberty of the campus.
It is unusual for police to enter university campuses, especially state colleges, where the institution is ostensibly linked to the public and constitutionally protected from interference. This is one of the reasons why it was more shocking for the riot police to riot the University of Tokyo in 1968 than Nihon University or Waseda, et al. Following the Poporo Incident in 1952, the campus was seen as off-limits to the authorities. All this changed after the start of the mass campus movements in the second half of the 1960’s.
For private colleges the prevailing attitude has always been very different, since they are effectively corporations. Nihon University was quick to call in the riot police to quell its rebellious student body in 1968. Likewise, Hōsei has had no qualms about hiring private security teams to keep far-left activists off the campus. Even so, the police would need permission to enter the campus of Kyoto University, which does not seem to be the case here (police have yet to respond formally to these accusations).
Kyoto University was once a bastion of far-left politics, and is especially famous as the birthplace of the faction that broke away from the Bund and became the Sekigun-ha in the late 1960’s.
In recent times young Chūkaku-ha (quasi-sect or otherwise) and non-sect activists (student and staff) have been holding demos and hunger strikes, on and off-campus (see “Lovable Anarchism: Campus Protest in Japan From the 1990s to Today” by Carl Cassegård in Culture Unbound, Volume 6, 2014). While not a full resurgence of student activism per se, we have seen an increase in political activism at colleges like Kyoto, Okinawa University, Hōsei and others.