I attended the explanation meeting for Negri's sudden Japan visit cancellation last night at The International House. In short, it seems that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Office hastily and without any prior notice demanded that Negri apply for a visa, even though the organisers had confirmed numerous times with them that he did not require a visa to enter Japan. The visa issue emerged two days prior to Negri's planned arrival, on the 17th. Details of the case can be read at Japan Today , The Tocqueville Connection and breitbart.com.
Japanese law states that people with a criminal record and over one year in prison cannot enter Japan. There is a clause to this though which states that political prisoners are exempt. The Japanese authorities insisted that he submit all relevant documents which would prove that he was a political prisoner - something which, according to statements made at the meeting, would involve tracking down thousands of pages of court documents in Italian and take many months. This was simply impossible to achieve. I was surprised to hear that Negri's French partner, Judith Revel, was also requested to apply for a visa, even though as a French citizen this is not needed. The organisers last night could not hide their immense sense of disappointment, and commented that this effective denial of entry amounted to an infringement of Negri's human rights as well as to the curtailment of intellectual, research and cultural freedom of university institutions. Some commented that it amounted to a sense of paranoia and political intervention by the government, especially in the run up to this summer's Tohyakou G8 Summit, which Japan hosts.
The various events which were planned will nonetheless go ahead.
Tokyo University intends to use real-time media technology to try to realise a symposium with Negri in remote attendance. Kyoto University will hold a symposium with the oranisers reading aloud Negri's prepared paper. Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music will hold a two day event of symposiums and art actions. They also plan a 'mochi-tsuki' (sticky rice pounding) event, where participants can vent frustration by taking turns pounding rice. More information Here.
I wrote some months back about Japan entering its second period of 'sakoku' (isolation). The trigger then was the introduction of finger-printing technologies for all non Japanese entering Japan, thinly veiled under the rhetoric of its anti-terrorism laws. Only the United States and Japan asks all visitors to submit bio-data. Now, with Negri's case, Japan is once again in partnership with the United States, as the only other country which effectively denied him entry. Negri's letter mentioned that he has travelled to 22 countries without restriction - the United States was the only exception, as it demanded piles of documents which were simply not reasonable to gather. Japan seems to have followed suit.
It is indeed a sad day when the apparatus of the state cannot accommodate one thinker to enter its borders.