Three foreign-born residents filed a suit against the Japanese and local governments on Monday due to alleged racial profiling by the police. All of them have lived in Japan for more than 10 years and are either naturalized citizens or permanent residents. “They don’t recognize us as Japanese,” one of the plaintiffs, Syed Zain, 26, said of the police here. “From the first moment, they think I am a criminal.” Zain, who asked to be identified as Pakistani Japanese, claims he is constantly being stopped by the police, sometimes in front of his home.  

Questioned 70 Times

“A lot of apathy here has allowed people like me to be abused and mistreated,” said a fellow plaintiff who only gave his name as Maurice S. “This is an everyday occurrence. We have to do something to prevent that for future generations,” he added. Maurice, a Black American, who lives with family members who are Japanese citizens, said he’s been questioned by the police in public 16 or 17 times. The third plaintiff, a permanent resident here from the Pacific Islands named Matthew, claimed he has been questioned by the police at least 70 times since moving to Japan in 2002.  

“Every time I finish work I feel like I am hiding in my house,” Matthew told Global News. “Tokyo is one of the greatest cities where people want to go, but I don’t want to go out. And I always ask myself why can’t I? The reason is because I just don’t want to face the police. I know nine out of 10 times they will find a way to stop me.” The three men claim that the Japanese police have been engaging in racial profiling. They are each seeking ¥3.3 million in damages.  

racial profiling in Japan

Warning Against Racial Profiling in Japan

In 2021, the United States embassy in Tokyo tweeted a message warning citizens about suspected racial profiling in Japan. “The U.S. Embassy has received reports of foreigners stopped and searched by Japanese police in suspected racial profiling incidents. Several were detained, questioned, and searched,” read the tweet. Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution stipulates that there shall be no discrimination based on race or family origin.


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