|Arab Spring bites into Beijing
the end of the cold war the rise of China has been the major
global phenomena most talked about in the international
arena. For despotic regimes wishing to hold on to power with
their tyrannical methods the emergence of China has offered
a glimmer of hope from the previous models that demanded
that economic development could only happen hand in hand
with democracy and liberal trade.
This was the Manthra preached to the developing world for
decades. If you want to improve the economy of a country
that country needs to transform itself into a democracy, it
should accept liberal free trade and open up their
economies, the state should minimise its role in business
and allow the private sector to lead the charge towards
economic development. In what was unofficially termed the
‘Washington Consensus’ this liberalised trade was championed
as the panacea for third world development during the
The notion that only democracies can sustain growth and
development has been nullified by the phenomenal economic
strides made by China since it reformed its socialist
economy in the early 1980’s. China has instead offered a
model where strong centralised governments guide an economy
through a state controlled process where even individual
rights can be crushed for what is argued to be the ‘greater
good’ of the whole of society. This school of thought argues
that China has managed to achieve its goals only because of
state suppression and limitation of democracy and rights of
When political theorist Francis Fukuyama declared, at the
end of the Cold War, that it was the ‘end of history’ since
liberal trade and liberal democracy have finally triumphed
over alternative forms of government and economic models, he
and many others envisioned that the last bastions of
communism like China and Vietnam would soon democratise
along with their economic liberalisation. It was
inconceivable that a raising middle class that was
economically empowered would accept anything short of
democracy from its government. But yet history has proven
them wrong. China remains a non-democratic state with little
signs of political reform in that direction even while it
steams ahead rising hundreds of millions out of poverty into
a vibrant middle class.
Many despotic regimes across the world have latched on to
this theory to argue limiting rights in exchange for rapid
economic development. These despots have benefited
enormously from China’s own economic growth and its
insatiable appetite for natural resources. From Zimbabwe to
Myanmar there are no longer conditions imposed for doing
business, at least with China. As long as these nations have
something to sell to China they are rewarded with seemingly
unlimited bundles of credit, massive infrastructure projects
and access to markets.
Unlike the many western nations that place demands on these
countries regarding their form of government, human rights
and rule of law, China really doesn’t care much about such
international norms. Many despots from Africa, Middle-east,
Latin America and Asia have found new lease of life due to
Chinese aid and have enthusiastically professed a ‘Chinese
model’ for development. In return for their tyrannical rule
they have offered the people a chance of economic
empowerment. This phenomenon seemed to be sweeping the globe
in the early decade of the 21st century. Liberal democracy
was on a fast track of retreat. The power of western nations
to impose their writ in developing countries diminished,
along with their own economic troubles and the increasing
clout of China.
Yet the events in the Middle East this year have put breaks
on the tyrannical steamroller. Just as democracy looked like
in desperate retreat the youth led uprisings against
established dictatorships have once again demonstrated that
despite promises of economic development it is not possible
to suppress a population through tyranny. Despite Chinese
money and decades old repressive state structures the
dominos of tyranny are falling.
From Tunisia and Egypt early this year to the latest victim
of the Arab Spring, Mahmoud Gaddafi of Libya last week,
despots are losing power across the Arab world. This week
Libyan rebels entered the country’s capital signalling the
end of the 42 year reign of Gaddafi. The dictator and his
sons who ruled that country as their personal fiefdom are
now on the run, wanted by the International Criminal Court
for crimes against humanity. The man once called the ‘Mad
Dog of the Middle East’ now being hunted like an animal
would be a good eye opener for dictators and aspirant
tyrants across the world about the fragility of their state
even while it may seem as they are all powerful and safe in
their current positions.
The fate of Hossnei Mubarak, the ruler of Egypt for thirty
years before getting disposed in January this year, is no
better. From the all powerful pharaoh to accused criminal
facing trial and possible death, Mubarak too shows that the
fall can be great to those who assume absolute power. While
the Syrian regime is brutally crushing a people’s uprising
and looks like will prevail over protesters, Yemen’s
President Ali Abdullah Saleh would likely feel the added
pressure to leave his office. The Arab Spring that has
already taken three dictatorial victims shows no signs of
The effects of the Arab Spring have been felt across the non
democratic world. Even in China, which has been projected as
the ultimate model of a country that has achieved economic
development through suppression of its citizen’s freedoms,
there is a growing uneasiness that its 1.2 billion people
will rise in protest demanding greater liberties. A nervous
government has censored the Internet and social media sites.
Economic models that do not address the basic human needs
for freedom and justice will eventually lead to catastrophic
implosions. The lessons of the Middle East should at least
settle the debate over whether liberty could be bartered for
Rights and hope inside secret Libyan
Hundreds of alleged fighters for Moamer Kadhafi sit
quietly in a secret prison near Tripoli, their placid
murmurs breathing hope into the dream of free Libya’s
newfound respect for human rights.
The 375 male prisoners being held behind locked doors in an
elementary school around 20 kilometres (13 miles) from
Tripoli appear well-treated, although some of them are
barely teenagers, captured during recent days fighting.
Their wounds have been bandaged, and some wave at the sight
of foreigners. Some read the Koran, but most just stare at
the ground. Many have shaved heads, a medical measure to
prevent the spread of lice.
Simply establishing the existence of the prison has been
difficult. Rebels and doctors refused to say where prisoners
Then, a fighter who laid down his arms after the battle for
Tripoli was essentially won on Tuesday, called a friend who
mentioned a prison to him.
The friend said we could come to this prison, in a small
town where a revolutionary committee now holds sway, pending
the establishment of a centralised government in Tripoli and
the drawing up of a new constitution.
The prison’s location cannot be revealed because “we do not
know what Kadhafi’s people are still capable of,” said
Yacoub Amar Mohammed, who heads the town’s legal committee
charged with investigating the prisoners’ alleged crimes.
He says that 371 prisoners are yet to be investigated, 30
have been freed and four have been deemed chargeable.
“From the first day we have tried to find a legal system and
avoid what the ex-regime did for 42 years,” said Mohammed.
“We are trying to establish standards of human rights and to
follow them in the new, free Libya.”
Asked if conditions elsewhere are as good as here, or if he
is concerned about rebels exacting revenge on prisoners, as
alleged by rights groups, he said, “you cannot always
control personal behaviour, there may be one or two cases.”
He said that some of those freed had asked to come back to
prison for their own safety “because they did horrible
things to the Libyan people.”
“Tripoli is 95 per cent free, so we will wait for the
National Transitional Council to start work and give a legal
structure so that they can get the sentence they deserve. We
have strong evidence against many of the people here.” Some
in the West have voiced concern that fundamentalist Sharia
Islamic law may be established in Libya, but Mohammed says
that “our Islam is simple and modern.”
“The rebels are young people who like the West and support
European football teams, they are moderate and want to build
a new Libya, worshipping God and feeling free, with respect
for other people.”
“We are trying to avoid the negatives, of which there are
many after 42 years outside of the modern world, so we have
to catch up. The negatives will soon be gone, through
education.” A man who gave his name as Dr Khayree pointed
out that, conveniently, even Kadhafi-built elementary
schools “look like prisons.”
Steel mesh covers all the windows, and doors inside have
bars. “Even the hospital looks like a military
installation,” sneered Khayree.
The prisoners are mostly locals, “so we try to give them the
best,” said Mohammed. They will be moved to a proper prison
in two days and cannot be photographed “because of the
Geneva Convention,” he said. (AFP)
Kadhafi hometown bombed, rebels poised
|British warplanes bombed a bunker in Moamer Kadhafi’s
birthplace of Sirte as rebel fighters prepared to attack the
town, one of the last major regime holdouts east of Tripoli.
As insurgent leaders moved into Tripoli to begin a political
transition, the African Union called Friday for that process
to be “inclusive”, while the UN human rights chief warned
against assassinating Kadhafi, whose whereabouts are unknown
and who has a $1.7 million rebel price on his head.
On the ground, the rebels claimed a new military success
Friday with the capture of Ras Jdir, a post on the border
with Tunisia, which it was feared Kadhafi might use to
A Tunisian government official said Kadhafi loyalists fled
as more than 100 rebels arrived at Ras Jdir and raised their
A representative of the rebel National Transitional Council
(NTC) said on Tunisian television from Ras Jdir that four
pro-Kadhafi fighters surrendered.
On the Sirte front, “a formation of Tornado GR4s... fired a
salvo of Storm Shadow precision-guided missiles against a
large headquarters bunker in Kadhafi’s hometown” on Thursday
night, Britain’s defence ministry said.
Speculation that Kadhafi might have found refuge in the
town, which lies 360 kilometres (225 miles) east of Tripoli,
has not been confirmed.
NATO said on Friday its planes had hit 29 armed vehicles and
a “command and control node” near Sirte as they advanced
toward the rebel-held port of Misrata, about 140 kilometres
Regime forces in Sirte have been regularly targeted since
the start of the campaign, an official said, but now “it’s
one of the last places he (Kadhafi) has control of.”
“It has always been a stronghold of the regime and now the
remnants of the regime are using it to launch attacks,” the
“This is an extremely desperate and dangerous remnant of a
former regime and they are obviously desperately trying to
disrupt the fact that the Libyan people have started to take
responsibility for their own country.”
On Thursday, the NTC moved many of its top figures from
their Benghazi base to the capital, just days after rebel
fighters overran Tripoli and captured Kadhafi’s
NTC official Ali Tarhuni said their leader, Mustafa Abdel
Jalil, would arrive as soon as the security situation
Abdel Nagib Mlegta, head of operations for the takeover of
the capital, said his fighters now controlled 95 percent of
Tripoli, with just a few pockets of resistance left. (AFP)
|India MPs to debate graft in bid
|India’s parliament was to debate measures to fight
rampant corruption on Saturday as the government struggled
to end a high-stakes fast by a 74-year-old social activist
whose health was weakening.
Doctors said they were worried about the health of Anna
Hazare as his hunger strike entered its 12th day, saying
they would soon decide whether the self-styled Gandhian
reformer should continue his protest.
“Today is the 12th day of his fast, his weight has gone down
further and there is considerable weakness,” said Dr Naresh
Trehan, head of the medical team monitoring Hazare’s health.
“The weight loss is slightly more than seven kilos (15
pounds). That’s why we’re worried,” Trehan said.
The veteran activist is staging his water-only fast in a
large open-air venue in New Delhi where huge, flag-waving
crowds have gathered each day to show their support.
The corruption issue has snowballed into a full-blown crisis
for the Congress-led government, with huge protests across
India in support of Hazare’s campaign.
Hazare has said he will fast until parliament adopts and
passes his version of a new anti-corruption bill that would
create the post of a national ombudsman to monitor senior
politicians and bureaucrats.
The giant groundswell of public support for Hazare has
rocked the government which was already on the defensive
over a series of multi-billion-dollar scandals that have
implicated top officials.
In recent days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought to
reach out to Hazare with conciliatory gestures aimed at
ending the hunger strike. (AFP)
|Strauss-Kahn in Washington for IMF
|Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrived in
Washington late Friday for a visit with his onetime
colleagues which his successor Christine Lagarde said would
be “a sort of reconciliation.”
Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested in May on sexual assault
charges but saw those charges dropped this week, made no
statement to journalists outside his home in an upscale
district of Washington, waving them away with his hand.
The French politician, who was seen as a frontrunner for his
country’s presidency before a New York hotel maid accused
him of trying to rape her, was accompanied by his wife Anne
The couple had left New York earlier in the day.
Strauss-Kahn resigned as the International Monetary Fund’s
managing director after he was arrested and charged.
This week, a New York judge approved a request by
prosecutors to drop the charges, after they said they could
not pursue the case because the accuser’s lies had made it
impossible to prove her accusations beyond a reasonable
Lagarde, who took up the IMF’s top job in July, told French
television that Strauss-Kahn would meet former colleagues,
but did not indicate whether she herself would meet with him
during his visit.
“Dominique Strauss-Kahn asked to meet his former colleagues,
and any staff members who wish to (see him), in order to
simply say good-bye and to have I suppose a sort of
reconciliation before leaving the United States,” she said.
“All former directors of the IMF can come to the IMF,” added
the former French finance minister.
IMF spokesman David Hawley said Thursday that a visit by
Strauss-Kahn to the Fund was expected “as early as next
|US, Israel concerned about Syrian
‘weapons of mass destruction’
The United States
and Israel are monitoring Syria’s suspected arsenal of
weapons of mass destruction, fearing that terror groups
could take advantage of the revolt against President Bashar
al-Assad to obtain chemical agents and long-range missiles,
The Wall Street Journal reported late Friday.
Citing unnamed officials from both countries, the newspaper
said US intelligence services believe Syria’s
nonconventional weapons programs include significant
stockpiles of mustard gas, VX and Sarin gas and the missile
and artillery systems to deliver them.
United Nations investigators also recently concluded that
Damascus had been secretly constructing a nuclear reactor
with North Korean help before Israeli jets destroyed the
site in late 2007, the report said.
US and UN nonproliferation officials continue to worry that
Pyongyang may have provided Syria with additional
nuclear-related equipment, The Journal noted.
“We are very concerned about the status of Syria’s WMD,
including chemical weapons,” the paper quoted Israel’s
ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, as saying.
“Together with the US administration, we are watching this
situation very carefully.”
US and Israeli officials won’t disclose exactly how they are
keeping watch on the Syrian weaponry, the report said.
But in the past, the United States and Israel have tracked
activities at Syrian military installations using satellites
and human spies, the paper pointed out. (AFP)
|Malaysia recognises Libyan rebel
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia has
recognised Libya’s rebel authority as longtime leader Moamer
Kadhafi’s regime is collapsing.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in a statement
late Friday that the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country
accepted the National Transitional Council (NTC) set up by
the rebels who took control of Tripoli this week.
“We are hopeful that the National Transitional Council...
will govern the interim administration towards national
unity, reconciliation, inclusiveness and reconstruction that
would bring lasting peace and stability to Libya and its
people,” Anifah said.
“To prevent further bloodshed... Malaysia joins other
international voices in calling for the Kadhafi forces to
submit to the choices of the majority of the Libyan people,”
Several Western countries have also recognised the NTC, but
the African Union declined Friday to recognise it and
instead called for forming an all-inclusive transitional
|World’s oldest person
celebrates 115th birthday
celebrated her 115th birthday as the world’s oldest person
in Monroe, Georgia, Friday, though there was no Elvis
impersonator at the party like there was last year, reported
A researcher from Guinness Book of World Records was on hand
at Cooper’s birthday party to deliver the Tennessee native
her second plaque that certifies her as the oldest person on
“We thought one was enough,” her son, Sidney Cooper, 76,
told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a daily newspaper
based in the southern US city of Atlanta, Georgia.
“She still remembers things and thinks clearly and talks,”
added Cooper. “But she has her good days and her bad days.
I’d say she sleeps about 80 percent of the time.”
Born in Tennessee in 1896, Besse Cooper moved to Georgia
during World War in search of work as a teacher. She married
her husband Luther in 1924, and they had four children.
Today she has 12 grandchildren and more than a dozen
great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, reported
In the same year Cooper was born, the first Dow Jones
Industrial Average was published, the first modern Olympic
games were held and the first Ford vehicle was built.
“She never worried,” says her son. Local media reported that
Besse Cooper adds her secret to longevity lies in two key
tenets: “I mind my own business,” she said. “And I don’t eat
junk food.” (AFP)
|China’s Sina warns
bloggers to ignore rumours
Twitter-like service in China has contacted millions of
users warning them to ignore false reports, in a sign of
growing official unease over the rise of social networking
Sina’s micro-blogging site Weibo sent at least two messages
on Friday to refute rumours, including one that the
suspected murderer of a 19-year-old woman had been released
on bail because of his father’s connections.
Sina said the bloggers who had posted the false reports
would have their accounts suspended for one month and would
not be able to send messages or be followed during that
|Singapore votes for new
Singaporeans voted Saturday in the
city-state’s first contested presidential election in 18
years following a heated campaign marked by calls for
stronger checks on the ruling party.
Polls opened at 8:00 am (0000 GMT) amid rain showers and
will close at 8:00 pm. The winner is expected to be known
within hours after voting centres close.
Three months after a parliamentary election eroded the
dominance of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has
ruled since 1959, anti-government sentiment is still running
high in the online forums that now shape political debate in
Four candidates -- all of them formerly associated with the
government or civil service during their careers -- are
running as individuals in the non-partisan contest, and
there are around 2.3 million eligible voters.
“They are all very good candidates,” auditor Andrew Ong, 26,
told AFP after casting his vote.
|Obama returns early due to
|US President Barack Obama returned here late
Friday after cutting short his vacation to deal with
Hurricane Irene, which is lining up a direct hit on the US
Obama, originally due to leave Martha’s Vineyard on
Saturday, left the Massachusetts resort island late Friday
and arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington at
10:51 pm (0251 GMT Saturday).
Irene, a category two hurricane, is forecast to make
landfall Saturday in North Carolina, where residents were
fleeing normally bustling beach communities, and could score
a direct hit on New York City. (AFP)