SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 04, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Toyo University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Japan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 4, 2018, police officers reportedly arrested two activists from Zengakuren, a left-wing student group, for allegedly distributing political materials at Toyo University.

The activists, Yohei Sakube and Yuichi Utsumi, were arrested as they were making their way to the annual Dōrō-Chiba “international solidarity” rally in Hibaya, one of the largest labor rallies in the country. Their arrest is reportedly in connection with accusations that they trespassed onto the Toyo University campus in July 2018. The activists allegedly visited different student groups and clubs at Toyo University to share fliers with information about Zengakuren and an upcoming rally.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of two activists in apparent retaliation for their nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association on a university campus— conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Japan is a party. While state authorities have a right to maintain security and order, that does not include the use of arrest in retaliation for nonviolent political activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.