The Chinese Communist Party plays “a leading role in promoting authoritarian norms” around the world as some leaders show a willingness to collaborate in spreading new forms of repression, according to a report from Washington-based think tank Freedom House.
However, even as democratic freedom suffers global setbacks, fundamental rights continue to have “an appeal and capacity for renewal” in places like Myanmar, where people have shown they are willing to risk their lives in pursuit of freedom, the report found.
Among the 56 countries listed as “Not Free” around the world, North Korea, China and Myanmar were listed as among “the worst of the worst.” Additionally, out of 39 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, nine were listed as “not free” and 13 were deemed only “partly free.”
“Political rights and civil liberties declined across the region as authoritarian forces moved to consolidate their power,” the report said. “The trend was most dramatic in Afghanistan and Myanmar, where elected civilian leaders were forced from office.”
The report noted the arrests in early 2022 of prominent pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong who took part in primary elections to consolidate the democratic opposition. They continued to be detained through December’s Legislative Council balloting – something that Freedom House said “underscored Beijing’s success in dismantling the territory’s semi-democratic institutions.”
Crackdowns in Asia also affected journalists and civil society movements, especially in countries whose institutions were already vulnerable, the report said.
“In China, one of the world’s most restrictive media environments, journalists faced heightened scrutiny and rigorous political indoctrination when attempting to renew their press licenses, and even individuals who engaged in solitary forms of protest were punished with prison sentences,” it said.
The biggest contraction in freedom took place in Myanmar, which has seen the widespread arrests of civilian political leaders following the 2021 military coup d’etat, Freedom House said.
“Over a thousand people have been killed as security forces crack down on pro-democracy protests, and thousands of others have been thrown in jail and tortured,” the report said. “The military authorities imposed curfews, repeatedly shut down the internet, raided universities, and searched for human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists to arrest.”
The country’s recent turmoil is “another sign that international deterrents against antidemocratic behavior are losing force,” the report said. However, Freedom House noted that “a widespread civil disobedience movement against the military coup has persisted in the face of violent reprisals.”
Resistance has denied the military regime “legitimacy and crippled its ability to function as a government, reflecting both the people’s commitment to democracy and the power it gives them to shape events.”
In Singapore, authorities forced one of the few independent news outlets to close after its license was suspended. And in Thailand, authorities expanded their ability to prosecute people for publishing news that could incite fear in the public.
China’s leading role
Worldwide, the enemies of liberal democracy “are accelerating their attacks” as regimes “have become more effective at co-opting or circumventing the norms and institutions meant to support basic liberties, and at providing aid to others who wish to do the same,” the report said, noting that there have been 16 consecutive years of decline in global freedom.
“The leaders of China, Russia, and other dictatorships have succeeded in shifting global incentives, jeopardizing the consensus that democracy is the only viable path to prosperity and security, while encouraging more authoritarian approaches to governance,” it said.
The Chinese Communist Party “offers an alternative to democracies as a source of international support and investment, helping would-be autocrats to entrench themselves in office, adopt aspects of the CCP governance model, and enrich their regimes while ignoring principles like transparency and fair competition,” the report said.
“At the same time, the CCP has used its vast economic clout and even military threats to suppress international criticism of its own violations of democratic principles and human rights, for instance by punishing governments and other foreign entities that criticize its demolition of civil liberties in Hong Kong or question its expansive territorial claims.”
Freedom House pointed to a Marriott hotel’s refusal to host a November 2021 World Uyghur Congress gathering in the Czech Republic, saying it preferred to observe “political neutrality.” New Zealand’s Parliament also refrained from identifying Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang province as a genocide after the trade minister said such language could hurt economic relations with China.
Turkey was once a haven for Uyghurs fleeing China, but the country “has increasingly shifted its stance to meet Beijing’s demands” by making it more difficult for Uyghurs to obtain permanent residence permits, the report found.
Edited by Malcolm Foster.
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Proposed Regulations in China Seek to Regulate After-School Tutoring Services
China’s Ministry of Education introduced new draft regulations to manage off-campus training in the after-school tutoring industry, following a crackdown in mid-2021. The regulations focus on prohibiting for-profit classes for core curriculum subjects in Grades 1-9, with fines up to RMB 100,000 for unlicensed services.
China’s Ministry of Education recently unveiled
On February 8, 2024, China’s Ministry of Education released the Regulations on the Management of Off-Campus Training (Draft for Solicitation of Comments) (hereinafter, the “draft regulations”). This new set of regulations for the after-school tutoring industry marks a substantial national-level effort to overhaul the sector. It follows a broader reform of the private tutoring industry initiated in mid-2021.
In this article, we delve into the specifics of the new draft regulations, shedding light on their potential implications within the broader context of China’s dynamic education sector.
Fast forward to July 2021, the Chinese government implemented a far-reaching crackdown on the private tutoring industry, effectively prohibiting tutors from conducting for-profit classes in core curriculum subjects. Dubbed the “shuangjian” or “double reduction” policy, its primary objective was to alleviate financial strains on families and reduce academic burdens on students by curbing excessive homework and after-school tutoring.
Notably, the regulations primarily targeted compulsory education (Grades 1-9), making it illegal to offer curriculum-based classes for profit. Conversely, non-academic extracurricular activities like art and sports remained largely unaffected, while high schools (Grades 10-12) experienced minimal disruption across academic and non-academic domains.
Building upon these reforms, in September 2023, China’s Education Ministry announced that unlicensed tutoring services in the country could face fines of up to RMB 100,000 (US$13,715.54). The announcement represents an example of the government’s broader strategy to reshape China’s education landscape.
For the first time, a clear definition of after-school tutoring is provided in high-level legislation. The term “off-campus training” as mentioned in the draft regulations is delineated as “organized or systematic educational training activities conducted outside the school education system, targeting primary and secondary school students as well as preschool children aged 3 to 6 with the main purpose of improving academic performance or cultivating their interests and talents”.
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China arrests more than 1,000 Tibetans protesting Chinese dam project
Police on Friday arrested more than 1,000 Tibetans, including monks from at least two local monasteries, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province after they protested the construction of a dam expected to destroy six monasteries and force the relocation of two villages, two sources from inside Tibet told Radio Free Asia.
The arrested individuals – both monks and local residents – are being held in various places throughout Dege county in Kardze Tibetan Prefecture because the police do not have a single place to detain them, said the sources who requested anonymity for safety reasons.
Those arrested have been forced to bring their own bedding and tsampa – a staple food for Tibetans that can be used to sustain themselves for long periods of time, the sources said.
“That police are asking Tibetans to bring their own tsampa and bedding is a sign that they will not be released anytime soon,” one of the sources said.
On Thursday, Feb. 22, Chinese authorities deployed specially trained armed police in Kardze’s Upper Wonto village region to arrest more than 100 Tibetan monks from Wonto and Yena monasteries along with local residents, many of whom were beaten and injured, and later admitted to Dege County Hospital for medical treatment, sources said.
Citizen videos from Thursday, shared exclusively with RFA, show Chinese officials in black uniforms forcibly restraining monks, who can be heard crying out to stop the dam construction.
Following news of the mass arrests, many Tibetans from Upper Wonto village who work in other parts of the country returned to their hometown and visited the detention centers to call for the release of the arrested Tibetans, sources said. They, too, were arrested.
The Dege County Hospital did not immediately return RFA’s requests for comment.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington hasn’t commented on the arrests other than in a statement issued Thursday that said the country respects the rule of law.
“China protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals in accordance with the law,” the statement said.
Massive dam project
The arrests followed days of protests and appeals by local Tibetans since Feb. 14 for China to stop the construction of the Gangtuo hydropower station.
RFA reported on Feb. 15 that at least 300 Tibetans gathered outside Dege County Town Hall to protest the building of the Gangtuo dam, which is part of a massive 13-tier hydropower complex on the Drichu River with a total planned capacity 13,920 megawatts.
The dam project is on the Drichu River, called Jinsha in Chinese, which is located on the upper reaches of the Yangtze, one of China’s most important waterways.
Local Tibetans have been particularly distraught that the construction of the hydropower station will result in the forced resettlement of two villages – Upper Wonto and Shipa villages – and six key monasteries in the area – Yena, Wonto, and Khardho in Wangbuding township in Dege county, and Rabten, Gonsar and Tashi in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, sources told RFA.
Sources on Friday also confirmed that some of the arrested monks with poor health conditions were allowed to return to their monasteries.
However, the monasteries – which include Wonto Monastery, known for its ancient murals dating back to the 13th century – remained desolate on the eve of Chotrul Duchen, or the Day of Miracles, which is commemorated on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and marks the celebration of a series of miracles performed by the Buddha.
“In the past, monks of Wonto Monastery would traditionally preside over large prayer gatherings and carry out all the religious activities,” said one of the sources. “This time, the monasteries are quiet and empty. … It’s very sad to see such monasteries of historical importance being prepared for destruction. The situation is the same at Yena Monastery.”
Tibetans in exile have been holding mass demonstrations in various parts of the world, including in Dharamsala, India, home to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
In the past week, Tibetans have demonstrated before the Chinese embassies, including those in New York and Switzerland, with more such protests and solidarity campaigns planned in Canada and other countries.
“The events in Derge are an example of Beijing’s destructive policies in Tibet,” said Kai Müller, managing director of the International Campaign for Tibet, in a statement on Friday. “The Chinese regime tramples on the rights of Tibetans and ruthlessly and irretrievably destroys valuable Tibetan cultural assets.”
“Beijing’s development and infrastructure projects are not only a threat to Tibetans, but also to regional security, especially when it comes to water supplies to affected Asian countries,” he added.
Human Rights Watch told RFA that it is monitoring the development but that information from inside Tibet is extremely rare given China’s tight surveillance and restrictions imposed on information flow.
“People who send information out and videos like this face imprisonment and torture,” said Maya Wang, the group’s interim China director.
“Even calling families in the diaspora are reasons for imprisonment,” she said. “What we do see now are actually … typical scenes of repression in Tibet, but we don’t often get to see [what] repression looks like in Tibet anymore.”
Additional reporting by Pelbar, Yeshi Dawa, Tashi Wangchuk, Palden Gyal and Sonam Lhamo for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.
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Canberra ties the knot with Washington
Australia has shifted its strategy towards favoring the United States over China due to increasing fear of Chinese power and the competitive Indo-Pacific environment.
The ‘riding two horses’ strategy adopted by Canberra over the past 25 years has shifted in favor of the US alliance to counter China’s growing power. Previous prime ministers sought to balance relations between China and the US, with Kevin Rudd aiming for ‘true friendship’ with China while also promising military intervention if needed. Tony Abbott’s approach was driven by ‘fear and greed’, and John Howard acknowledged the benefits of a relationship with both countries.
However, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed a desire to strengthen the US alliance and cooperate with China while also engaging in Australia’s national interest. This shift is evident in actions such as sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait and introducing legislation to facilitate the AUKUS security partnership.
The Indo-Pacific environment has become more competitive, leading Australia to prioritize fear over greed in its alignment. As China’s GDP continues to rise and may overtake the US by 2030, Canberra’s strategy is likely to continue favoring alignment with Washington due to the lack of a viable alternative for addressing its fear of China’s power.
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