Police have carried out a raid on Zenshinsha, the based for the ultra-left (formerly militant) radical faction Chūkaku-ha, in connection with an investigation into a non-profit organisation (NPO) alleged to have falsely received benefits for training the disabled. 150 officers were mobilised to conduct the search, following an earlier raid on the morning of June 1st at the non-profit itself, looking for evidence that Open Space Machi (Open Space Town), located in Nerima ward in Tokyo, had misappropriated money.
The security police believe that the NPO, founded nine years previously, is linked to Chūkaku-ha and have fraudulently accumulated funds which they are possibly using for political activities (non-profits are legally prevented from political activism). Open Space Machi ostensibly offers services for training and finding work for the disabled. It is accused of falsely applying to the local Nerima government for subsidy and receiving ¥5,900 in benefits per session. No arrests have been reported.
Chūkaku-ha has a checkered past, to say the least. Today it is heavily involved with unionism (especially in Chiba). Its main crusades include fighting again neoliberalism and privatisation, and the continued struggle against the expansion of Narita Airport, as well as campaigning against nuclear power and the government’s increase militarisation (Chūkaku-ha ideology views all these issues as inextricably linked). Police pressure, general age and internal splinters have greatly reduced its strength since the 1970’s and 1980’s. That being said, it can still field hundreds of activists for rallies and demos (a large Chūkaku-affiliated rally is planned for Sunday in Hibuya Park).
And just as the venerable activists are unwavering, neither are the authorities. Police regularly carry out raids on Zenshinsha, the de facto public headquarters for the group and where it produces its weekly organ, Zenshin. One such raid was held in November last year during a renewed period of tension between police and the New Left faction. An older raid resulted in lawsuit after Chūkaku objected to the materials police removed.
As usual, these new raids were typically performative — with police putting on a show of force for the cameras of the press, who were notified in advance, and the activists futilely protesting the search with placards. All this increases public fear of such groups — invariably labelled kagekiha (extremist or radical faction) by the media, the same word used for ISIS — so much so that any “legal” or “genuine” activism they do is tainted by association. This led one film distribution company to withdraw a documentary about children in Fukushima after it emerged that a subject in the film was a member of Chūkaku-ha and that a clinic briefly featured in the film is also backed by the group.
The next issue of Zenshin will almost certainly feature a condemnation of the raids and an official response from Chūkaku-ha.
Update: Activists Arrested
Authorities also raided the home of an activist in Osaka this morning.
Yōji Hoshikawa (71) has been arrested on suspicion of violating the Road Transport Act for running a coach service to a protest and collecting fees from passengers in September last year. This requires a licence. The charge relates to a rally when around 40 people were driven from JR Osaka Station to Kyōtango in the north of Kyoto Prefecture to protest and attempt to block the deployment of a missile defence early-warning radar at a US military facility. The passengers paid a fee to cover the costs of the journey.
One of three activists taken into custody, Hoshikawa is the head of an anti-war civic group Kansai Kyōdo Kōdō (Kansai Common Action) and press reports identify him as an activist for Nihon Kakumeiteki Kyōsanshugisha Dōmei (Japan Revolutionary Communist League). This is one of the remaining splinters of what was formerly Fourth International Japan, though no overt link can be found from the Kansai Kyōdo Kōdō website.
It is even possible that Hoshikawa’s arrest is part of the Chūkaku-ha crackdown, though there would seem to be no direct connection to Zenshinsha except for some shared anti-war ideology. The other two arrested activists are apparently members of Kyōsanshugisha Dōmei (Tōitsu Iinkai), a new group formed in 2004 out of the merger of two former Bund (Kyōsandō, Communist League) factions. All three are reported to be members of Kansai Kyōdo Kōdō.
As is usual, the police are conducting a wide sweep of other “related facilities” around Japan. The Japanese police has long placed pressure on the New Left using these so-called gasa tactics, where one small incident provides the pretext to raid numerous sites.
Following the arrests on May 28th of the three anti-nuclear power protestors outside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and two veteran activists in Gunma on May 13th over a mobile phone contract, these are dangerous times indeed to be left-wing in Japan. The slightest infringement — even driving a vehicle and collecting petrol money — may land you in prison.
Update (July 28th): Two more alleged Chūkaku-ha activists arrested
Following the June raid on the office of the non-profit Open Space Machi, two female employees of the organisation were arrested on July 27th on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining benefits for the disabled. Both women are in their sixties and said by police to be Chūkaku-ha activists. The money, totalling ¥160,000, was intended for occupational training for the disabled but police are investigating if it was used for political campaigning by the far-left group. Police say the NPO knowingly applied for 28 days’ worth of subsidy it was not entitled to receive. The women’s response to their arrests has been the usual Chūkaku-ha tactic of mokuhi (silence, refusing to answer any questions).
Update (August 27th): Two alleged Chūkaku-ha activists released
As expected, the two alleged Chūkaku-ha were released without charge on August 14th. (I write “alleged”, though the Chūkaku-ha organ Zenshin has overtly reported all this, so we can safely assume the women are certainly associated with the group.)