Friday, December 4, 2009

Double Standard on International Child Abduction?

"The Japanese consulate general in Shanghai renewed the passports of two girls without permission from their Japanese mother in violation of the Passport Law, after their Chinese father took them to China in the wake of a marriage breakup, it has been learned.

"The consulate general renewed the passports of the girls, now aged 18 and 17, in 2004, despite their mother's repeated requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to renew the passports.

"As a result of the consulate general's actions, the girls remained in China for five more years, and the situation was not resolved until the father came to Japan in September this year and was arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

""As a result of the government's mistake, I had to wait five years for the return of my daughters," the children's mother, who is in her 40s, said. "I want the government to move actively to protect the rights of children."

"Passports for minors are valid for five years. Passport Law regulations state that permission must be obtained from a person who has custody of the children for the passports to be issued.

"Representatives of the woman said that she and the Chinese man, 55-year-old Qin Weijie, married in 1988 and lived in Tokyo, but she left due to domestic violence by Qin. In June 1999, Qin met his daughters as they were traveling to school near the home to which his wife had moved, and he took them to China.

"Qin and his wife divorced in 2000, and she was granted custody of the children. However, as she didn't know where they were, she repeatedly asked the Foreign Ministry not to renew their passports. She also filed a criminal complaint against Qin accusing him of abducting the children and taking them overseas. However, the consulate general renewed the passports in January 2004.

"About five years later, when the deadline for renewing the passports of the children was again approaching, Qin contacted his former wife asking her to sign a consent form for renewal, but she said she wanted to meet them directly and confirm what they wanted to do, so the two came to Japan in January.

"Qin was arrested after entering Japan in September this year at Narita Airport, trying to take his elder daughter, who wanted to remain in Japan, back with him. His former wife said the eldest daughter was suffering from an eating disorder and panic attacks, due in part to violent behavior from Qin.

"On Thursday, Qin was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for three years, after going on trial facing international abduction and other charges. In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Manabu Kato criticized Qin's actions, saying, "His act of taking the children away without notice deserves criticism," but noted, "At the time Qin also held custody of the children." Commenting on the wife's position, the judge stated: "It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved."

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division admitted the mistake in renewing the passports without consent, but said it could not provide detailed background information on individual cases."

By Mainichi Shimbun (12/4/2009), Link to article (last visited 12/4/2009)

*Savoie case

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