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Shinzo Abe: Assassinated former PM leaves divided legacy for Japan

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By AP  with Euronews
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In this image from a video, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a campaign speech in Nara, western Japan shortly before he was shot Friday, July 8, 2022.
In this image from a video, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a campaign speech in Nara, western Japan shortly before he was shot Friday, July 8, 2022.   -   Copyright  Kyodo News via AP

Shinzo Abe was a political blueblood groomed for power. Japan's longest serving prime minister, he was also perhaps the most polarizing, complex politician in recent Japanese history.

Abe, who was assassinated Friday, angered both liberals at home and World War II victims in Asia with his hawkish push to revamp the military and his revisionist view that Japan was given an unfair verdict by history for its brutal past.

At the same time, he revitalized Japan’s economy, led efforts for the nation to take a stronger role in Asia and served as a rare beacon of political stability before stepping down two years ago for health reasons.

“He’s the most towering political figure in Japan over the past couple of decades,” said Dave Leheny, a political scientist at Waseda University. “He wanted Japan to be respected on the global stage in the way that he felt was deserved. ... He also wanted Japan to not have to keep apologizing for World War II.”

Abe, who died after being shot during a campaign speech, was 67.

Police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of the attack, which shocked many in Japan, one of the world’s safest nations with some of the strictest gun control laws. Near the suspect was a double-barreled device that appeared to be a handmade gun.

Abe believed that Japan's postwar track record of economic success, peace and global cooperation was something "other countries should pay more attention to, and that Japanese should be proud of,” Leheny said.

Abe was a darling of conservatives but reviled by many liberals in Japan. And no policy was more divisive than his cherished, ultimately unsuccessful dream to revise Japan’s war-renouncing constitution. His ultra-nationalism also angered the Koreas and China, both wartime victims of Japan.

Assassination caught on camera

Abe was in Nara campaigning ahead of Sunday’s election for Japan's upper house and was giving a speech when he was shot. 

In eyewitness video from the scene, which was widely shared on social media, two shots can be clearly heard. Japanese public broadcaster NHK aired footage showing Abe collapsing on the street, with several security guards running toward him. He was bleeding and holding his chest.

Twitter, Facebook parent Meta and other social media companies scrambled Friday to police videos on their platforms of the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that break rules on harmful content.

Multiple videos of the attack by a gunman who fired a homemade, double-barreled weapon twice at Abe circulated on social media. Some only show the moments before and after the attack while others showed both shots.

Twitter said its enforcement teams were working to “address harmful content” relating to the attack by “proactively removing” material that violates its rules, which include restrictions on sensitive media including graphic violence.

Twitter urged users to flag up any potentially sensitive material of the attack so it can take action. Videos of the attack could still be found easily on Twitter many hours after the attack.

Meta said it was deleting videos depicting the moment of the attack and had disabled the suspect’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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