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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 April 2022
This paper aims to examine the legitimacy of Ryukyuans/Okinawans’1 right to self-determination (RSD) under international human rights law. To this end, it first details the evolution of the RSD from the traditional right to independence for colonial peoples, to the continuing right to self-governance for wider groups of peoples, which is followed by an analysis of holders of the RSD. The paper then turns to Ryukyu/Okinawa to discuss the RSD of its peoples. Three historical events, the Disposition of Ryukyu, the Treaty of San Francisco, and the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, are analysed from a legal perspective, followed by an examination of the peoplehood of Ryukyuans/Okinawans. These lead to the conclusion that the Ryukyuans/Okinawans may legitimately claim that they possess the “unexercised” RSD as a quasi-non-self-governing people, and that they are entitled to claim the RSD as a “people” under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and other United Nations declarations.
Please note that Ryukyu is also spelled as Ryūkyū or Lew Chew. This paper uses the “Ryukyu” spelling, which is more widely used in academic writings and reports of civil society organizations and of UN human rights bodies. Also, drawing from the existence of linguistic minorities with diverse historical backgrounds within Ryukyu/Okinawa, “peoples”, a plural form of people, is used in addressing the Ryukyuans/Okinawans. Civil society organizations such as the Association of Comprehensive Studies for Independence of the Lew Chewans (ACSILs) and Association of the Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus (AIPR) also use a plural form. Therefore, this paper also uses a plural form; however, please note that when claiming the right Ryukyuans/Okinawans have done so collectively as one group, in contrast to the Yamatonchu or mainland Japanese.
2 ONAGA Takeshi, “Oral Statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Governor of Okinawa” (21 September 2015), online: Okinawa Prefecture <http://www.pref.okinawa.lg.jp/site/chijiko/henoko/documents/unoralstatement.pdf>.
3 “Henoko ga Yuiitsu no Kaiketusaku. Seifu ga Chiji ni Hanron” [translated by Ai Abe: “Henoko is the Only Solution. Government Objected Governor”] Okinawa Times (23 September 2015), online: Okinawa Times <http://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/18994>. See also, “Item: 4 General Debate – 17th Meeting 30th Regular Session of Human Rights Council” UN Web TV (21 September 2015), online: UN Web TV <https://media.un.org/en/asset/k10/k106z5ir4c>.
4 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, GA Res. 1514 (XV), UN Doc. A/RES/1514(XV) (1960) [The Declaration].
5 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19 December 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, 6 ILM 368 (entered into force 23 March 1976) [ICCPR].
6 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, 6 ILM 360 (entered into force 3 January 1976) [ICESCR].
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63 Michael P. SCHARF, “Earned Sovereignty: Juridical Underpinnings” (2002) 31(3) Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 373 at 380.
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71 Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Mexico, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 40 of the Covenant, UN Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.109 (1999) at para. 19.
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74 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, S. James Anaya, Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development, UN Doc. A/HRC/9/9 (2008) at para 41.
75 The Declaration, supra note 4.
76 Principle Which Should Guide Members in Determining Whether or Not an Obligation Exists to Transmit the Information Called for under Article 73e of the Charter, supra note 25.
77 TOSHIAKI Furuki, “Considering Okinawa as a Frontier” in Glen D. HOOK and Richard SIDDLE, eds., Japan and Okinawa: Structure and Subjectivity (London; New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), 21 at 25.
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94 Ryukyushimposha and Arakaki, supra note 84 at 72–4.
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96 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331 (entered into force 27 January 1980) [VCLT].
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100 Ian BROWNLIE, International Law and the Use of Force by States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963) at 20.
101 United States Congress, “Joint Resolution: To Acknowledge the 100th Anniversary of the 17 January 1893 Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and to Offer an Apology to Native Hawaiians on Behalf of the United States for the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii”, Public Law 103–50 103rd Congress, S.J. Res 19 (23 November 1993), online: Congress.Gov <https://www.congress.gov/103/statute/STATUTE-107/STATUTE-107-Pg1510.pdf> at 1513.
104 Max HUBER and Michiels van VERDUYNEN, “Rendered in Conformity with the Special Agreement Concluded on 23 January 1925 between the United States of America and the Netherlands Relating to the Arbitration of Differences Respecting Sovereignty over the Island of Palmas (or Miangas)” 2 RIAA, 829 (4 April 1928), reprinted in 22(4) American Journal of International Law 867.
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108 UN Charter, supra note 13.
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122 Declaration on the Grant of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, Submitted by Mr. N.S. Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Chairman of the USSE Delegation, on 23 September 1960 for Consideration by the United Nations General Assembly at its Fifteenth Session, UN Doc. A/4502 (1960).
124 Koseki and Toyoshita, supra note 117 at 228.
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128 National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), “Nihon Seifu Kenkai” [translated by Ai Abe: “Governmental Opinion”] (2 February 1962), online: GRIPS <https://worldjpn.grips.ac.jp/>. See also Koseki and Toyoshita, supra note 117 at 239.
129 Principle Which Should Guide Members in Determining Whether or Not an Obligation Exists to Transmit the Information Called for under Article 73e of the Charter, supra note 25 at Principles IV and V.
134 Washington Secretary of State, “Strategy Paper on Okinawa Negotiations” (3 July 1969), online: Okinawa Prefectural Archives <https://www.archives.pref.okinawa.jp/wp-content/uploads/104-Okinawa-Negotiating-Strategy.pdf>.
135 Government of the Ryukyu Islands, “Fukki Sochi Ni Kansuru Kengisho” [translated by Ai Abe: “Proposal Document on the Reversion Procedure”] (18 January 1971), online: Okinawa Prefectural Archives <http://www.archives.pref.okinawa.jp/wp-content/uploads/R00001217B-1-1.pdf>.
138 Brownlie, supra note 65 at 5.
139 Separate Opinion of Judge Cançado Trindade, supra note 12 at paras. 228–9.
140 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169) Concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries, 27 June 1989, 1650 U.N.T.S. 383 (entered into force 5 September 1991) [ILO Convention No. 169].
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144 Majewicz, supra note 142 at 159.
145 Concluding Observations on the Sixth Periodic Report of Japan, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6 (2014) at para. 26.
146 Concluding Observations on the Combined Seventh to Ninth Periodic Reports of Japan, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Doc. CERD/C/JPN/CO/7-9 (2014) at para. 21.
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148 Heinrich, supra note 141 at 168.
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154 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger”, online: UNESCO <http://www.unesco.org/languages-atlas/index.php>.
155 See for example Tenth and Eleventh Combined Periodic Report by the Government of Japan under Article 9 of the ICERD, UN Doc. CERD/C/JPN/10-11 (2017) at para. 30.
156 Alan S. CHRISTY, “The Making of Imperial Subjects in Okinawa” in Michael WEINER, ed., Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Japan: Imagined and Imaginary Minorities, Volume III (London; New York: Routledge Curzon, 2004), 173 at 175.
158 Michael WEINER, “Discourses of Race, Nation and Empire in Pre-1945 Japan” in Michael WEINER, ed., Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Japan: Imagined and Imaginary Minorities, Volume I (London; New York: Routledge Curzon, 2004), 217 at 225.
160 Christy, supra note 156 at 178.
162 Arnaud NANTA, “Colonial Expositions and Ethnic Hierarchies in Modern Japan” in Pascal BLANCHARD, ed., Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008), 248 at 250.
166 Christy, supra note 156 at 180.
167 Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and All Forms of Discrimination, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Addendum, Mission to Japan, prepared by Doudou DIÈNE, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2006/16/Add.2 (2006) at para. 69.
170 Moriteru ARASAKI, Nihon Ni Totte Okinawa Toha Nanika [translated by Ai Abe: “What Is Okinawa to Japan?”] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2016) at 34–7.
171 Richard SIDDLE (1998) as cited in Glen D. HOOK and Richard SIDDLE, “Introduction: Japan? Structure and Subjectivity in Okinawa” in Glen D. HOOK and Richard SIDDLE, eds., Japan and Okinawa: Structure and Subjectivity (London; New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), 1 at 9.
172 Richard SIDDLE, “Return to Uchina ̄: The Politics of Identity in Contemporary Okinawa” in Hook and Siddle. Ibid. at 136.
174 Dietz, supra note 38 at 188.
177 Siddle, supra note 172 at 136.
179 Dietz, supra note 38 at 195.
182 Takeshi ONAGA, “Dairokkai Sekai No Uchinanchu Taikai Kaikai Siki Aisatsu” [translated by Ai Abe: “Opening Address of the Sixth World Wide Uchinanchu Festival”] (27 October 2017), online: Okinawa Prefectural Archives <http://www.pref.okinawa.jp/site/chijiko/hisho/hpchijimessage/20161027utinanchu.html>.
183 KATOH, Junzo et al. ., “A Study on Okinawa Identity and Uchina Network among Okinawans: In Conjunction with Basic Analysis of the ‘6th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival’” (2018) 14 Immigration Studies 1Google Scholar at 13, online: University of the Ryukyus Repository <http://ir.lib.u-ryukyu.ac.jp/bitstream/20.500.12000/42346/1/No14p1.pdf>.
184 “Kenmin dearukoto hokorini omou 74%” [Translated by Ai Abe: “Feel Proud of Being Okinawan: 74%”] Ryukyu Shimpo (8 January 2022), online: Ryukyu Shimpo <https://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/entry-1451275.html>.
185 Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations, Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Volume V: Conclusions, Proposals and Recommendations, prepared by José R. MARTÍNEZ COBO, UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1986/7/Add.4 (1987) at para. 379.
186 Uemura, supra note 79 at 107.
187 Opinion Statement of the City Council of Tomigusuku of Okinawa Prefecture, as cited in Tenth and Eleventh Combined Periodic Report, supra note 155 at para. 35.
188 Consultation on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Asia, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, prepared by James ANAYA, UN Doc. A/HRC/24/41/Add.3 (2013) at para. 32.
189 “Henoko Hantai Nezuyoku Okinawa Chijisen Yuruganu Minni Shimesu” [translated by Ai Abe: “Firm Objection to Henoko: Will of People Expressed in the Election”] Ryukyu Shimpo (1 October 2018), online: Ryukyu Shimpo <https://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/entry-811533.html>. Note that Uchinanchu is the term the people of Ryukyu/Okinawa use to refer to themselves.
190 Reference re Secession of Quebec, supra note 54 at para. 124.
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