Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to use his trip to Central Asia to "raise concerns about the alarming state of human rights throughout the region."
Ahead of Abe's trip, which began on October 22, the rights watchdog highlighted what it described as key areas of concern for the Japanese leader to raise with government officials in each country.
They include politically motivated prosecutions and imprisonment of human rights and civic activists; renewed efforts to clamp down on the activities of nongovernmental groups and on freedom of the media, assembly, and association; and impunity for torture.
Accompanied by representatives of about 50 Japanese firms, Abe began a weeklong tour of Mongolia and the five Central Asian countries, which is expected to focus on business deals.
Before departing for Mongolia, the first leg of his trip, Abe said that "Japan has a role to play" as resource-rich Central Asian states and Mongolia "are seeking high-quality infrastructure."
"We are hoping to dramatically strengthen ties with each of these nations," Abe said.
This is the first time in nine years for a Japanese prime minister has visited Central Asia. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, or Kyrgyzstan.