Opinion | It's been a bleak summer for democracy and civil society worldwide. It's time to turn it around. – The Washington Post
This has been a horrible summer for the causes of democracy and civil society. The bleakest news has been the triumph of a despotic, fundamentalist movement in Afghanistan. But around the world, dictators have been aggressively destroying the elements of any open and free society: the news media, unions, political parties, movements and their leaders. They are bottling up the rights to free speech and assembly and straitjacketing competition. Welcome to the summer of freedom lost.
In Myanmar, also known as Burma, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is being held in prison by the military junta that seized power from her after parliamentary elections that her National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won. Aung San Suu Kyi herself disappointed democracy and human rights advocates while she held office, but there is no question that her party remains the people’s choice. Now the regime is hunting down its members in a violent and wide-ranging crackdown while she’s locked up and her lawyer is muzzled.
China has tightened its stranglehold on Hong Kong. On Aug. 10, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union, with about 95,000 members, which was earlier denounced by the official Xinhua News Agency as a “malignant tumor,” announced it was disbanding. Five days later, so did the Civil Human Rights Front, which had organized Hong Kong street protests in 2019. According to Bloomberg News, more than a dozen smaller outfits, including groups representing progressive lawyers and medical professionals, have also closed, as well as the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided financial assistance to arrested protesters. Beijing’s imposition of a national security law, in violation of its international commitment to allow Hong Kong a measure of self-rule, has left these groups no choice.
Russia’s security services are going door to door to intimidate backers of Alexei Navalny, the leading opposition figure to President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Navalny survived an assassination attempt by Russian security officers last year and is now in jail on phony charges intended to silence him. Russians who signed up to help Mr. Navalny have been getting late-night knocks on their door from police. On Aug. 20, the Russian authorities branded two more independent news organizations, TV Rain and iStories, as “foreign agents,” potentially crippling their operations.
After the July 11 protests in Cuba, hundreds of demonstrators remain in detention for having taken part. In Nicaragua, a crackdown on the opposition continues unabated, an attempt to crush any serious challenge to President Daniel Ortega in November elections. In Belarus, lawyers and news media organizations have been the latest targets of repression. In Tunisia, President Kais Saied grabbed power on July 25 and has indefinitely suspended parliament, deepening worry about the future of the nation’s fragile democratic system.
Most of these regimes — Myanmar, China, Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Belarus — have been sanctioned in some way by the United States and others. Yet neither sanctions nor scolding seems to deter them. An urgent goal for President Biden’s democracy summit in December is to identify practical measures to reverse this trend and lend support to the courageous people on the front lines of the fight.
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