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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Japan launches ID scheme
A group of opponents hold a protest rally in front of the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry in Tokyo
Critics of the registry dressed up as bar codes
Japan has introduced its first national identity scheme, sparking protests that the registry infringes on people's privacy.


This system treats individuals as things, not people

Hirohisa Kitano, legal expert
The aim is to give every citizen an 11-digit identification number which will make it easier to store personal information such as a person's name, date of birth, gender and address.

At least five municipalities are refusing to take part in the scheme.

And the authorities in Yokohama, Japan's second-largest city, have said they will only register the details of residents who have given their consent.

Easing bureaucracy

It is hoped that the new network - known as Juki Net - will cut down on red tape.

Currently Japanese often have to pay numerous visits to government offices in order to even register a change of address.

But opponents to the system are concerned that it could be exploited by a 'big brother' government or computer hackers.

About 70 people demonstrated against the system on Monday morning in front of Japan's Public Management Ministry in Tokyo.

'Dehumanising'

"This system treats individuals as things, not people," Hirohisa Kitano, a legal expert and professor emeritus of Nihon University, told a news conference.

"The Nazis assigned numbers to Jewish people in exactly the same way. It is extremely dangerous," he added.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration had promised to enact a personal information protection law before the new system was put in place.

But parliament failed to pass the bill after critics said it would muzzle the media.

Mr Koizumi said the government would persevere in attempting to persuade local governments to adopt the registry.

"People always have some concerns and bewilderment when they face a new era," he told reporters.

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