Freedom of expression, assembly curtailed in LDP constitution draft

A panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is aiming at restricting freedom of assembly and expression guaranteed under the Constitution in its draft proposal for a new Constitution, sources said Monday.

According to its basic concept, a subcommittee of the LDP's constitutional drafting committee says, "It should be permissible under the law to restrict or ban publication or sale of books that have a detrimental effect on young people's upbringing' — an apparent reference to obscene books or videos.

The subcommittee, led by House of Representatives member Hajime Funada, also says in the basic policy stance, "There should be restrictions on forming associations that aim at damaging the state or social order."

Further, it emphasizes the obligations citizens have to defend the country, protect their families and the environment and respect life, even at the expense of individual freedoms.

Concerning Article 20, which guarantees freedom of religion and bans religious organizations from receiving any privileges from the state and exercising political authority, the subcommittee will propose allowing the authorities to be involved in Shinto ceremonies and fund them from the public purse, "as they belong to accepted social protocol."

The proposal may also pave the way for formalizing visits by the prime minister to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo under the Constitution. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits there have led bilateral ties with China to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, another LDP subcommittee proposed on Monday that the charter's preamble should reflect Japanese history and the national character of the Japanese people, party lawmakers said.

The subcommittee, headed by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, also agreed that the new preamble should be written in 500 to 600 characters to be memorized by students as part of their compulsory education, the lawmakers said.

The interim report also calls for specifying Japan's vision as a country, stipulating principles of pacifism and international cooperation, they said.

The subcommittee plans to compile a draft of the new preamble by early March.

The current Constitution, which took effect in May 1947, was drafted by the U.S.-led Allied occupation forces in hopes of democratizing Japan and ensuring that it would not revive as a militarist state after the end of World War II.

The LDP drafting panel includes 10 subcommittees, including those concerned with the preamble, the imperial system and national security.

The panel will compile an LDP draft of the Constitution revision bill by the end of April based on reports from the subcommittees.