Child Abduction in Japan: Shane Clarke Case
Tokyo Correspondent Lee Jay Walker Interviews Shane Clarke
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent - THE SEOUL TIMES
|Child abduction in Japan and case of Shane Clarke|
Shane Clarke is a British national who is being prevented from seeing his children because of the Japanese government and legal system which discriminates against all foreign nationals.
Japan is a nation which allows children of mixed blood to be kidnapped and to be alienated from the left-behind parent and other family members who care deeply.
Both Walter Benda and David Brian Thomas who founded The Children’s Rights Council of Japan (http://www.crcjapan.com) state that “the best parent is both parents.” This organization is trying its best to fight against the injustices of the Japanese legal system and the political system which is allowing child abduction.
I urge all people to read the harrowing case of Shane Clarke and consider his responses deeply because he was challenged about many important issues.
I also hope that people will read about The Children’s Rights Council of Japan ( http://www.crcjapan.com ) because collective pressure is needed in order to galvanize public attention.
This article also highlights the role of other governments, for example the British government; after all, surely Japan must be pressurized into changing the system and shamed for allowing child abduction.
Therefore, please read about Shane Clarke and other deeper issues. Why should he and tens of thousands of other nationals have to suffer?
INTERVIEW BEGINS WITH SHANE CLARKE
Question: Can you please tell me briefly about how you met and how your wife responded to life in England?
Answer: We met on the internet and exchanged messages for a while before finally deciding to meet up. She was studying in London at the time, and I was in West Bromwich, just outside Birmingham. She seemed very at home here in the UK; very cosmopolitan. She gave the impression that she would feel comfortable anywhere. It was actually one of the things that attracted me to her. She was well-travelled, and had lived in Canada and Germany, so western society was nothing new to her. In fact, it would be fair to say she was quite westernised.
Question: Did your wife have cultural problems in England and what role did your parents and other family members have in the upbringing of your children?
Answer: On the whole, she didn’t really have any cultural problems. As I said before, she was well-travelled and had spent time in other western countries. Also, we adapted our lifestyle at home to come more into line with Japanese culture, such as taking off our shoes before we entered the house. The only member of my family that really had anything to do with the upbringing of the children was my mother. My wife didn’t really like my first daughter, Chelcie, to have any contact with the children. My wife had some mental health problems which mainly manifested themselves as anger management issues. She could be very fiery regarding the children. She wouldn’t allow me to have any say in how they were raised. She also got angry if the wrong thing was said, such as when I wanted to have them Christened. However, the most outstanding incident was when Mei, the older of our two children, developed childhood eczema. My wife was furious. She said it was my fault and that she was going to divorce me, saying that because of me, our baby was going to be ugly and probably scarred for life. As usual when she got angry, there was no talking to her, there was no reasoning with her. For about three days, she refused to talk to me, and stalked around the house like a monster, waiting to attack at the slightest prompt. Then she went to visit my mom, who managed to get through to her and told her how unreasonable she was being. My mom had a calming influence on my wife, and Ryoko (my wife) genuinely seemed to love her. When my mother died in January 2007, Ryoko cut her annual trip to Japan short to come back over to say goodbye to my mother in the funeral home and to attend the funeral. She seemed genuinely upset that my mother had died, which is why this thing is so confusing, because she seemed so fond of my mother, and she knew that my mother would never want her to cut off my contact with the children, yet she does it anyway.
Question: When your wife took both children to Japan were you suspicious that something was wrong?
Answer: Absolutely not. Less than two weeks before they went, we had taken a lovely holiday in the Lake District for Ryoko’s birthday. We had a great time. I was coming to the end of an MBA at one of the top business schools in the world. As far as I knew, we had a great future ahead of us.
Question: How did you feel when you realized that your wife had ulterior motives?
Answer: I was devastated, confused, hurt, frustrated. I ran the whole gamut of emotions. I felt betrayed by the person I trusted most in the world, and I wanted to know why. I had done everything I possibly could to try to make her happy. The only thing I couldn’t do was turn my back on my daughter, but it seems this one thing was too much for her.
Question: Since your wife took your children to Japan have you had any contact with her recently, either in person, by phone, by letter or by email?
Answer: I haven’t had any contact whatsoever with my wife or children since June last year. I don’t know if my children are okay. I don’t even know what they look like anymore.
Question: When did you last see your children? Also, how are you coping under this enormous stress and pain?
Answer: I last saw my children on that night in May last year when I had to say goodbye to them. I have to admit, the massive stress and pain is sometimes overwhelming, and I do find it hard to cope sometimes. It’s also affecting my physical health in that I am susceptible to any illness that goes around, I feel constantly drained, and I have now developed Neuropathy, which is a condition that affects the nervous system. My biggest support is my faith, knowing that I have someone holding my hand through this. I also have a fantastic support system around me in the form of my doctor and my legal team, who have been a lifeline for me since the disastrous trip to the Japanese court last year.
Question: Many people focus on the left-behind parent; however, it is also a nightmare for grandparents and other family members. Therefore, how are other family members coping?
Answer: Unfortunately, both of my parents are dead. However Ryoko was very close to my mother, and I know she knows that my mother would be heartbroken by what she’s doing. Chelcie, my oldest daughter, and the babies’ older sister, tends to play her cards close to her chest and keep her emotions in check, but it’s obvious that she’s worried sick, and terrified that she might never see her sisters again. Every now and then, she cries for them, and asks when I’m going to bring them home. This is one of those situations when a child’s unconditional faith in her daddy can be a double-edged sword, because she thinks that I will definately bring them home eventually, but there is always that chance that I will fail in this fight.
Question: Please tell me about what happened during your court hearings in Japan? Were you treated fairly?
Answer: The court hearing in Japan was a disgrace. The court tricked me into attending without an interpreter, then I was mocked, humiliated and toyed with in the court room by the judge, his assistants and the other side. I called the British Embassy three times from the court room, saying that there was no interpreter (the court had assured them they would provide one). The court clerk would then tell the Embassy that there was one there, and then when the phone was put down, they would laugh and talk together in Japanese. The judge’s assistant, a middle-aged woman who apparently was supposed to be the interpreter at one point said, “Okay, I’ll interpret for you if you pay me.”
“Okay,” I said. “How much?”
Then she turned on just about the most evil smile I have ever seen, and said, “Come back in two weeks and I’ll tell you then.”
I was somehow able to persuade the judge to let me come back for another hearing the next day. Unfortunately, however, I wasn’t able to provide an interpreter, so I had an audience with the judge in his chamber.
To my utter astonishment, this man who hadn’t spoken a word of English the day before now spoke perfectly good English. We talked for a couple of hours, discussing the case and the law. Eventually, I decided to put him on the spot and said, “So, under Japanese law, are you obliged to uphold my British court order?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“So, will you?”
“With respect,” I said. “Why not?”
Then the games started, and I had such excuses as, “I don’t have the authority to make orders”, “This is a Japanese court; if you want me to make an order you have to ask me in Japanese”. However, he finally settled on “It’s complicated”.
They also tried to get me to sign for a document written in Japanese that I didn’t understand a word of.
Question: Did the British Embassy provide you with adequate support during your ordeal in Japan?
Answer: The British Embassy hung me out to dry in Japan. It was they who assured me – in writing – that the Japanese court would provide me with an interpreter. They knew that this was my last throw of the dice at that time, that I was flat broke – I couldn’t even afford to eat in Japan; I lived off the complimentary biscuits on the coffee tray in the hotel room – and on the day of the so-called hearing, they knew that the Japanese were playing games, yet they did absolutely nothing. They refused to provide me with an interpreter, although they knew my position. The Vice-Consul faxed me at the hotel to say he would attend the hearing I arranged for the next day, then he failed to appear. The British Embassy did nothing to help me or my children on that trip.
Question: The British government raises the issue of North Korea abducting Japanese people. However, the same British government appears to remain silent towards mixed British children being abducted in Japan. How do you feel about this?
Answer: I am disgusted, especially since the British Government recently interfered in the judicial and cultural system of Syria to facilitate the return of a mixed British child. They also interfered in the judicial system of China during the Beijing Olympics to facilitate the release of a British protestor who was being held on a criminal charge. I find this particularly distasteful, since the British government’s mantra is “We cannot interefere in the judicial system of another country”. It would appear that there are advantages to being the second biggest economy in the world and a wealthy trading partner. I wonder if the government would have been so quick to interfere in Syria’s affairs if they were a wealthy trading partner, or Nissan was a Syrian company and they were dangling the carrot of a new car being built in the UK. Coincidentally, there were four main countries that attended the symposium in Japan in May to try to get them to sign the Hague Convention – The US, Canada, France and Britain. Since then, Japan has certainly greased a few wheels. They have offered venture capital and set up a joint venture to manufacture car parts in the US; Canada and France have joined Japan in a joint venture to produce uranium, and Nissan have agreed to build a new model in the UK. All of this investment shortly after pressure from these nations, and in the midst of a global recession. It is certainly food for thought.
Question: Japan refuses to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on civil aspects of child abduction; therefore, what is your opinion about the current situation in Japan?
Answer: The current situation in Japan is a joke, and a crime against the human rights of the children kidnapped by what is essentially a rogue state. Japan actually already has the laws to deal with this issue – both criminal and civil. This is a result of their ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child a number of years ago. Their Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a report last year making a song and dance of how they have altered their civil and criminal laws to come into line with the convention. The only trouble is, they refuse to enforce them for foreigners.
Question: The Children’s Rights Council of Japan (http://www.crcjapan.com) has been working around the clock to highlight the terrible and devastating consequences of child abduction in Japan. Do you believe that politicians and the media are doing enough to highlight this crisis?
Answer: Politicians are doing nothing to highlight this crisis. They treat it like a child treats the monster in the closet, and hide their heads under the blankets, hoping it will go away. But this monster is actually growing – doubling in size in the past year. I think their attitude towards it is a disgrace, and highlights the corruption prevalent in the self-serving governments of the so-called civilised world.
As for the press, they are very slowly waking up to the seriousness of the problem. However, they are still extremely hesitant because of the legal implications that go hand in hand with this issue. So, rather than risk litigation, many media sources tend to shy away from giving this problem any real exposure.
Question: Walter Benda and David Brian Thomas who founded The Children’s Rights Council of Japan state that “the best parent is both parents.” Also, cultural and parental alienation is a serious problem; what do you think about this?
Answer: I absolutely agree that the best parent is both parents, especially in mixed race children, since they have two cultures and heritages, and it’s important that they learn about both. There is also the love and support that comes from having access to two parents. The cultural and parental alienation is more than a serious problem, it is an abuse of the basic human rights of the child. Putting aside the wishes of parents, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes contact with both parents as a basic human right. As a signatory to this convention, Japan has a legal obligation to ensure this contact, yet they assist the abductors in denying it to the left behind parent. This raises the question – Why are the UN not stamping their feet about Japan failing to live up to its obligations under the convention? I have been in touch with the UN about this, but they say there is nothing they can do. So, why even bother having such conventions?
Question: I worry that if your case takes a long-time, that this will go against you because the courts in Japan will claim that the children are now settled in Japan. Do you worry about this?
Answer: Yes I do. However, if you think about it, it wouldn’t matter if the children had been there for a week or a year, the Japanese government would still protect the abductors and hide behind their false smiles and assurances that they are doing what is best for the child, while all the time abusing this child’s human rights.
Question: In Japan the courts have limited enforcement powers and often the courts believe that one parent is best because this brings stability. What do you think about this?
Answer: It’s utter rubbish. Stability comes from having two parents because it prevents the child feeling isolated. Also, what if that one parent is abusive, or more interested in socialising than taking care of the children, or has to work so long that the children are passed from pillar to post, having to get up at the crack of dawn to be transported to a sister’s while mom goes out to work, not getting home until late, so that the children don’t get home until late in the evening, when they go straight to bed. It’s utter rubbish, and I think the Japanese government know it; it’s just convenient for them to say it because they think it adds strength to their defence.
As for the courts’ limited enforcement powers – they don’t seem to be so limited when they arrest and charge a man from the Netherlands with parental child abduction – supposedly not a crime in Japan. Japan’s enforcement powers really are limited only by their own will.
Question: Even if Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on civil aspects of child abduction, many people still believe that the courts will do little. If so, are you optimistic about your current case and seeing your children in the near future?
Answer: Unfortunately, no. I have no doubt that Japan will treat the Hague Convention with the same contempt it treats the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which already provides the laws to deal with this issue. They will simply pay it lip service, and then refuse to enforce it for foreigners.
Question: The legal system is expensive and the same applies to traveling to Japan. Therefore, does the British government or British Embassy provide you with economic support?
Answer: The British Government does nothing to help people in this situation. As I already said, they even refused to provide me with an interpreter in an emergency situation in Japan. I can get no legal aid to help me with the overseas expenses. In fact, I have even been refused additional legal aid to return to court in the UK over this case.
Question: It is estimated that you have around 20,000 children of mixed blood in Japan who have been alienated from their other parent because of the legal system in Japan. How do you feel about this?
Answer: It’s a crime against humanity. It is a crime against the human rights of these children, and it disgusts me that the world turns a blind eye to it.
Question: The Courts of England and Wales also send children to non-Hague nations, including Japan; therefore, do you think that nations like Japan should be blacklisted?
Answer: Absolutely. One of the requirements for international judicial cooperation is comity, so why should the UK send children over there when they refuse to extend us the same cooperation? I think there should be sanctions against Japan until they come into line with the civilised world and realise that they are not above the rest of the world, and it’s not one rule for them and one for the rest of us.
Question: Japan wants to be a permanent member of the United Nations; however, Japan clearly tolerates child abduction and institutional racism. Therefore, do you believe that enough is being done to pressurize Japan?
Answer: There is NOTHING being done to pressurise Japan. The law of the greased palm is in operation here, and no government is going to do anything to jeopardise the Japanese gravy train they are riding. This is simply another case of wealth bringing certain benefits and exemptions. Japan will no doubt be incorporated as a permanent member of the United Nations, and they may even sign the Hague Convention, but that doesn’t mean anything is going to change. It’s all lip service designed to appease as the old boys network continues to make its own rules on right and wrong and common decency.
Question: Turning back to your situation. Then how are you coping with all your stress and pain?
Answer: My faith is very important to me. I pray every day, for the strength to carry on, for the safety of my children. I even pray for my wife, and that she will come to her senses and realise what she’s doing to our children. I bear no malice towards my wife, and I think that lack of hatred helps a little. I also have unbelievable people around me who have actually restored my faith in humanity. My doctor, my legal team, my friends – without them, I think I would have gone under a long time ago.
Question: Do you worry about parental alienation and the cultural alienation of your children in Japan?
Answer: Yes, I do. A child has a right to know its heritage and its culture. When I sent Easter Eggs to the girls this year I also enclosed a letter telling them about home, and myself and their older sister, telling them I loved them very much, and also about why we have Easter, and the significance of the eggs in relation to our Christian faith. I have no idea whether they were even given the eggs, or if the letter was read to them. I would like to think so.
PLEASE ADD ANYTHING ELSE AND END THIS INTERVIEW BY THE INTERNET.
Japan has no qualms about denying mixed race children access to their other cultural heritage. One wonders if they would have the same qualms if it was the Japanese heritage that was being denied. Would they still say the one parent arrangement brings stability if the one parent was not Japanese?
Japan hides behind false smiles and declarations of doing what’s best for the children. So, let us ask one simple question – why have they never ordered the return of a child to a foreign country? In more than fifty years, involving more than 20,000 children, they have never found a case where the best interests of the child would be served by returning it overseas? That is a phenomenal statistic. The Japanese must all be marvellous parents. There must be no child abuse whatsoever in Japan, no juvenile crime, no youth drug addiction, no teenage pregnancies, no blossoming porn industry focusing on the exploitation of young girls. How could there be, when they ALL have such fantastic parenting skills – so much better than the rest of the world.
Then there is the standard argument of spousal abuse that the Japanese raise in almost all cases, whether the victim is male or female. Again, a phenomenal statistic. You would think the Japanese would have learned by now not to get involved with us evil foreigners, since we’re all spousal and child abusers. Bearing in mind that mixed marriages involving Japanese nationals are actually dramatically increasing, this raises another question – are the Japanese fundamentally stupid or just pathological liars?
LEE JAY WALKER