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Action Alert - New Zealanders in Japanese Jail

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 23 March 1999

Kia ora,

we have been asked by Greenpeace to circulate the following message to you. If you wish further information about it, please contact Stephanie Mills

Draft Letter to Japanese Embassy

The Ambassador
Japanese Embassy
Hunter St

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing to you today with great urgency, to express my deep concern about the fate of three Greenpeace volunteers, Mark Watson (New Zealand), Kirsty Hamilton (Australia) and Richard Pearson (Australia, UK), who were arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Thursday, 18 March, following a public appeal against the manufacture of PVC toys. The three staged a legitimate and urgent appeal concerning a situation which is endangering children's health in Japan. Various Japanese toy manufacturers are still producing toys from PVC. Potentially carcinogenic chemicals known as phthalates are used in PVC toys to act as softeners. These toxic substances, which have also been linked to liver and kidney damage in laboratory animals, are threatening children's health while they are sucking and chewing toys. Furthermore, when PVC is produced at the factory, and incinerated when dumped, it produces a toxic substance about which there has recently been substantial concern expressed in Japan: Dioxin.

The following countries already have banned Phthalates or soft PVC toys: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Norway and Sweden. The governments of the USA, Canada, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Belgium and Germany have asked for voluntary action by toy companies to eliminate PVC or phthalate containing products from their marketplace.

The three Greenpeace volunteers, all highly experienced climbers, hung a banner from a public space at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition building, on the opening day of the Tokyo Toy Show, to draw attention to the problem of PCV toys. This followed months of dialogue initiatives by Greenpeace Japan to establish the position of Japanese toy manufacturers and to urge them to pay serious attention to children's health issues and phase out the use of PVC in their toys.

Several manufacturers, including Japanese ones, have already phased out PVC toys, or are planning to do so shortly. However, several Japanese manufacturers are still lagging behind, and are urged to follow suit fast, to remain competitive on the international market, and to protect children's health.

For their courageous stance, the three Greenpeace volunteers have now been detained since 18 March, and on 20 March the Tokyo District Court decided to continue their detention, for up to 20 days.

Greenpeace believes that this is a totally unreasonable response to a peaceful appeal which was conducted in the interest of Japanese children's health. Even if there is a court case to be heard, there is no reason why the three volunteers should be detained until such a court hearing. They have pledged to attend any such hearing, and Greenpeace Japan has given its undertaking to put up the necessary bail to guarantee their attendance. Therefore they should be released immediately. The three Greenpeace volunteers have given their free time and experience to conduct this public appeal on behalf of Greenpeace, for the protection of the health of Japanese children. They have full-time employment commitments, which they should not be prevented from fulfilling.

Therefore, we kindly urge you to do all you can to ensure a speedy release of the three Greenpeace volunteers, Kirsty Hamilton, Mark Watson and Richard Pearson.

In closing, could you please let me have answers on the following two questions:

1. Why have the volunteers been detained?

2. What is the possibility of releasing the three volunteers on bail?

We thank you for your time, your kind support and immediate attention in this urgent matter and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely ETC

If you wish to contact the Japanese Embassy about this, you can reach them at tel (04) 473 1540, fax (04) 473 1147.

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