TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan erupted with online anger Wednesday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who won’t reveal guests at a controversial party due to “respect for privacy,” told Parliament the operator of a shredder that destroyed the guest list was disabled.
Opposition lawmakers allege Abe favoured supporters with invites to an annual state-funded cherry blossom viewing party and may have broken campaign laws by subsidising backers’ attendance at a reception the night before, a scandal that has eaten away at support for his administration.
Questions have also arisen over why this year’s guest list was shredded the same day opposition lawmakers asked for it. Abe has denied wrongdoing, saying the timing was a coincidence and revealing the names of guests would infringe on their privacy.
Under questioning in parliament on Tuesday, Abe repeated this explanation, adding the shredding took place when it did “because of the work schedule of the disabled contractor in charge”.
Abe’s comment set off a social media firestorm and was one of the top trending topics on Japanese Twitter on Wednesday.
“Hey, doesn’t this comment reveal personal information? Even though it doesn’t give a name?” wrote user Tonas Reigetsuin.
Others slammed Abe for using the disabled worker as a shield. “He’s the worst, he could have just referred to the worker’s schedule - why did he have to insert the word disabled?” one added.
Asked why Abe had mentioned that the worker was disabled, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference it was in response to repeated questions in parliament about the timing of the shredding.
“There was a need to make sure there was enough time to work easily,” he added, without giving further details.
Some people said the comments were emblematic of attitudes in Japan, where just a year ago the government was found to have inflated the number of disabled employees they had and three years ago a man stabbed 19 disabled people to death in their beds, saying they had no right to live.
“Saying that a disabled person did it implies it couldn’t be helped, it happened because they were disabled,” wrote a Twitter user by the name of Mia Doi.
“This comment is bigoted and looks down on people. It also shows the prime minister thinks the disabled are people who make mistakes.”
Reporting by Elaine Lies and Kaori Kaneko. Editing by Lincoln Feast.