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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 October 21 - 27  > PM Suga’s refusal of SCJ nominees recalls imperial government suppression of academic freedom
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2020 October 21 - 27 [POLITICS]

PM Suga’s refusal of SCJ nominees recalls imperial government suppression of academic freedom

October 23, 2020

Prime Minister Suga’s refusal to accept six scholars for admission to the Science Council of Japan membership brings to mind how the prewar government suppressed academic freedom with an iron fist, especially related to the Takigawa incident.

The Takigawa incident occurred in 1933 at the Kyoto Imperial University (currently Kyoto University). Criminal law Professor Takigawa Yukitoki was suspended from teaching by the imperial government because his theory was deemed to be ideologically dangerous. In protest against this act, seven professors resigned their position at the university.

What Professor Takigawa in his theory advocated was that only increasing punishment without improving social environment will not work to reduce crime and that the law only criminalizing women who engaged in adultery is unreasonable and thus unacceptable.

After the incident, the imperial government tightened its crackdown on academic freedom. One of the seven professors, the late Ritsumeikan University President Suekawa Hiroshi, who was also a law scholar, after the war said that due to the thorough oppression by the wartime government of scholarly freedom and the freedom of thought, academics were forced to censor themselves and cooperate with the government in supporting the war.

After WWII, the Science Council of Japan was founded in January 1949 as an organization functioning independent of the government. Prime Minister at that time Yoshida Shigeru in his speech celebrating the SCJ founding said that despite being under government jurisdiction, the SCJ is granted a high degree of autonomy because it is necessary for the SCJ to be free from political pressure in accomplishing its mission.

The SCJ in its first general meeting adopted a statement which detailed the fundamental principles of the organization. The statement expressed remorse over Japanese researchers’ past unethical conduct and pledged to contribute to the country’s peaceful reconstruction and the promotion of human welfare. This statement was drawn up by Suekawa.

Suekawa in February 1950 at a lecture meeting hosted by the SCJ under the theme of academic freedom and freedom of thought talked about the statement. He pointed out that during the prewar and wartime period, scientists were exposed to political oppression and forced to work for the benefit of the government. He went on to say that under such a circumstance, scientists became loyal to the government or pretended to be so, and added that the statement declared the SCJ’s stance to accept the responsibility for such behavior.

Furthermore, Suekawa said that academic study should aim for peace and thus it is necessary to fight against any move to infringe on academic freedom and the freedom of thought to achieve this.

Past related articles:
> Scientists in Japan resolved to never again engage in research for war purposes [October 3, 2020]
> Shii condemns gov't intervention in Science Council as threat to academic freedom [October 2, 2020]
> Science Council of Japan established based on remorse over wartime cooperation [February 22, 2017]
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