Japanese lawmaker releases her private legal records to prove nationality

Renho Murata, head of the Democratic Party, released the documents to show she had renounced her Taiwanese citizenship

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 3:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 3:01am

A Japanese opposition leader born to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother released legal documents on Tuesday to prove she only has Japanese nationality.

Renho Murata, head of the Democratic Party, said she released the private documents to show she had renounced her earlier Taiwanese citizenship. Public doubts over her status, despite her repeated explanations, have been blamed for her party’s recent election loss in a country where there is strong pressure for conformity and an obsession with Japanese bloodlines.

“Family registration records involve an extremely high level of privacy and I’ve been cautious about disclosing them,” Renho said. “But I’ve decided to release the documents as head of a political party whose accountability is more strongly required than an ordinary lawmaker.”

Renho Murata must reawaken Japan’s docile opposition

She also said she should show a good example as head of the leading opposition party that is criticising Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s lack of clarity in a series of recent scandals.

“I hope I’m the last person to have to make such disclosure,” she said. “I want a society where diversity is tolerated and everyone is accepted, not one that promotes prejudice or forces people to do something.”

Human rights activists and some academics, however, said Renho’s action could send the message that she has accepted prejudice against people with multi-ethnic backgrounds.

Koichi Nakano, an international politics professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, said it seemed Renho had removed an obstacle to joining the mainstream, instead of fighting along with other minorities for their rights. He said her action could contribute to a feeling that having non-Japanese or naturalised parents is undesirable.

Renho, who was born Hsie Lien-fang in Japan in 1967, initially had Taiwanese nationality because Japan only recognised citizenship passed through fathers. She obtained Japanese nationality in 1985 at age 17 after a law revision allowed mothers to also convey citizenship.

Renho said she was unaware of her dual nationality until last year when questions arose, and renounced her Taiwanese citizenship at that time.

Renho, a TV personality turned lawmaker, has never hidden her Taiwanese roots but was pressured to clarify her nationality when she ran for the party leadership last August. Her initial explanation that she no longer had Taiwanese citizenship turned out to be inaccurate. She apologised and pursued paperwork to sort out her status, formally renouncing her Taiwanese nationality in October.

Japanese citizenship is required to be a lawmaker. Holding dual citizenship is not illegal, although the Japanese government urges such people to choose one nationality before reaching age 22.

Renho said she had believed her Japanese citizenship replaced her earlier Taiwanese nationality, and therefore never renewed her Taiwanese passport after one bearing her childhood photo expired in July 1984. Her disclosure Tuesday included the photo copy of the passport, a document of her renounced nationality verified by the Taiwanese authorities, as well as a Japanese government document confirming her sworn Japanese nationality.