Agnes Chan: “One child safe is one child safe.”


The object of a hate campaign (Photo: My Droid)

Agnes Chan is one of my favorite people (I’ve written about her here and here, among other places), but she’s virtually unknown in the U.S.

The Chinese megastar from Tokyo is Japan’s UNICEF ambassador, known around the world for her hands-on humanitarian work.  During our two-hour visit today at the Stanford Bookstore cafe, she discussed her recent work in Somalia, India, and China.

Her call at Stanford was not a humanitarian mission, however: her second son is a freshman (he was born at Stanford University Hospital), her oldest son is an alumnus, and she herself picked up a PhD in education in 1994.

The singer and songwriter hosts television programs in Japan, writes extensively for the media, and has authored about scores of  books.  At Stanford, she co-authored The Road Winds Uphill All the Way: Gender, Work, and Family in the United States and Japan with Myra Strober (it was published by MIT Press in 1999) .

On her travels, she regularly works with the diseased, the maimed, the hopeless, and the helpless. As I wrote six years ago:

How does she cope in the face of such intractable problems? “I take it one day at a time,” she said on a recent visit to Stanford. “One child safe is one child safe. One happy day for a child is one happy day for a child. I’m happy to collect one more dime. No effort is…” she pauses. Muda, she says, looking for the English equivalent to the Japanese word, although her native language is English. She tries “worthless” and finally settles for “wasted.”

“Every effort you make will somehow add up; it will help somebody somewhere. I think every single step counts.” It seems to: since she was named to the post in 1998, Japan’s committee has become UNICEF’s No. 1 fund raiser world­wide despite a period of economic decline, collecting $130 million last year.

When I asked Myra about her work some years ago, the economist said, “I think it feels very simple to her.  I don’t think she understands why it should be complex.  The world is not as it should be, and those more fortunate should help.”

Agnes’s most recent cause is closer to home:  a campaign to reform Japanese law and criminalize not only the sale and manufacture of child pornography, but also its possession and purchase.  Japan has been notoriously over-the-top with child pornography, in “live” and animated versions:

For a long time, Japanese society has been quiet about this issue, which is generally seen as taboo. Children’s advocates have been vocal in countering those who would prefer to keep subjects like child pornography hidden.

Among the advocates adding their voices to the campaign is singer and activist Dr. Agnes Chan. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Japan, Dr. Chan has been working on the issue of child pornography for many years; she sees it as one of the central children’s rights causes in the country.

“Japan is known to be one of the largest exporters and buyers of child pornography, and the law is insufficient. It needs to be changed,” Dr. Chan said, adding that preventing the production and sale of child pornography isn’t enough if it’s still permissible to possess or buy the images.

She told me the astonishing range of vitriol that has been directed against her – a hate campaign that has included spamming, threats to her life, and ridicule of her looks and her age, even accusations that she’s jealous of the children.  I had trouble believing that anyone could be even annoyed at the bright and effervescent star, so I did a quick google search when I got home and found this, among others – “The Dictatorial Melancholy of Agnes Chan.” For sexism, racism, and many other kinds of ism’s it’s hard to beat:

So, we again have the pleasure to meet Agnes Chan, ex-would-be singer, current TV and radio mascot for several shows who, in her spare time, puts on her robe and her wizard hat and sternly tries to get the carrot out of her ass by fighting against pornography.

Former fail-bikini girl congratulated the recent loli ban, letting loose her deep Chinese mentality by stating that “People who think of children’s nudity as a tool don’t need freedom of expression.” Now, Agnes Obaa-sama, we know that in China freedom of expression owns you, but let’s not mix up, like you obviously do, real life things (which, by the way, are handled with more success by authorities, not by some random aging female who happens to be at THAT time of the month), with anime and manga. The difference should be obvious even for mentally impaired people.

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