Tokyo by-law threatens freedoms

Street performances are fun for many people and give character to streets and communities such as Tokyo’s Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara and Kichijoji areas. But now such activities may be restricted or banned due to a revision of the Tokyo metropolitan by-law for “the building of safe and secure communities,” which took effect April 1.

The revised by-law not only threatens to make Tokyo’s busy and crowded areas colorless, uniform and drab but also appears to infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Metropolitan Police Department could use the revised by-law to crush people’s attempts to publicize their cause, be it human rights, animal rights or job protests.

In view of the fact that the number of criminal offenses in Tokyo reported by the police has decreased for six consecutive years since 2003, the motive behind the revision appears to be a political one aimed more at controlling the activities of citizens than on their safety. This makes the revision a clear attack on our freedoms.