Why We Fight [7:22 am]
An outspoken politician whose mother’s house was burned to the ground after he criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to a controversial war shrine warned Tuesday that increasing intimidation by right-wing extremists was casting a chill over free speech in Japan.
“There is less freedom than before to express one’s feelings,” said Koichi Kato, a onetime senior member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. Kato has become a target of hard-line nationalists for his criticism of Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the souls of 2.5 million of the country’s war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals from Japan’s imperial era.
Many politicians, academics and journalists have been cowed into silence by the threat of nationalist violence, suffocating a crucial debate on Japan’s relations with China, Kato said.