Japan’s Criticism on China’s Tibet Crackdown Hits Close to Home

Howard W. French writes on the International Herald Tribune:

In a meeting with the Japanese foreign minister, Masahiko Komakura, Yang countered with a warning over . “If you say anything further on this matter, it will consist of an infringement on our domestic affairs,” The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported. To this, Komakura replied, “I am annoyed to be told of an infringement on domestic matters while I am advising you as a friend.”

These remarkable exchanges are important for a variety of reasons. For one, although categories are sometimes stretched, Japan is not a Western country. If not mutually exclusive, its reasons for caring deeply about events in Tibet are rather different from those of the West, whose traditional human rights discourse has been painted, cynically or perversely, as a hostile doctrine by some in China.

Japan’s Buddhist roots incline it toward natural sympathy with the people of Tibet and toward concern for religious freedom there. To be sure, China may see still Japan through the mirror of its violent past, but today Japan sees China through the mirror of its own constitutional pacifism and it worries deeply what kind of neighbor is China becoming.

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