Posts Tagged ‘political rights’

Time for a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union — End the politics of grievance — Former British foreign minister David Miliband

August 13, 2017


LONDON (Reuters) – Former British foreign minister David Miliband called on Saturday for voters to be given a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.

Writing in the Observer newspaper Miliband, foreign minister under a Labour government between 2007 and 2010, called Brexit an “unparalleled act of economic self-harm” and said there should be another public vote once the final terms of Britain’s exit are known.

Although no longer a serving British politician, Miliband – brother of former Labour leader Ed Miliband – is still seen as an influential centrist voice.

His criticism joins that of a growing number of pro-EU figures from across the political spectrum who say Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy is economically damaging and that voters should be given a chance to halt the process.

Reporting by William James, editing by David Evans



Tory Brexit policy is chaotic: the fightback against this stitch-up must begin at once


Democracy did not end in June last year. It is essential MPs have a say on the future or the country may be driven off a cliff
David Miliband

David Miliband says Brexit was an “unparalleled act of economic self-harm”  GETTY IMAGE

For many years Britons and Americans have been proud of the quality of their governance. Yet today our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction. Rather than stability and global leadership there is confusion.

The US is suffering from a serious inability to legislate. There is a genuine risk of the country defaulting on its debts. Jeb Bush called Donald Trump the “chaos candidate”, but as the American writer Jonathan Rauch has pointed out the Trump candidacy was the product of political chaos – in campaign finance, for example – not its cause.

Meanwhile, Britain is suffering its own governability crisis. Leaving the EU was mis-sold as a quick fix. Now it looks like a decade-long process of unscrambling the eggs of national and European legislation. Ministers cannot even agree among themselves the destination, the route map or the vehicles to get us there.

This transatlantic malaise has a common root: politics based on what you are against, not what you are for. Look at the campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and against the EU. There is a common trope: the politics of grievance.

Complaints about individual policies became attacks against a whole institutional architecture. There were outright lies in both campaigns. And there was a complete (and effective) refusal to describe, never mind debate, what would replace the status quo.

Healthcare makes up nearly a fifth of the US economy – about $1tn larger than the whole UK economy. Support for Obamacare is growing, dramatically, because the alternative has finally been spelled out. It turns out that populism is popular until it has to make decisions.

In Britain, the implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic. The timing and content has been governed by factions in the Tory party. Our negotiating position is a mystery – even on immigration.

So the fightback against the worst consequences of the referendum has the opportunity and responsibility to get its bearings fast. Recent calls from Stephen Kinnock, Heidi Alexander and William Hague for Britain to embrace the European Economic Area are sensible. Nick Clegg’s point that a reformed Europe centred on the euro implies outer rings which Britain should consider also makes sense.

I never thought I would say this, but the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is also playing a valiant role. The transition he supports is vital. However, a transition postpones a rupture rather than avoiding it. Slow Brexit does not mean soft Brexit. Steve Baker, minister in the department leading the negotiations, has been refreshingly honest in saying the transition period is a “soft landing for a hard Brexit”. We have been warned.

The case against the EU depends on avoiding a discussion of the alternative. It is the equivalent of voting to repeal Obamacare without knowing the replacement. It is a stitch-up. That is one reason it is essential that parliament or the public are given the chance to have a straight vote between EU membership and the negotiated alternative. That is a democratic demand, not just a prudent one.

People say we must respect the referendum. We should. But democracy did not end on 23 June 2016. The referendum will be no excuse if the country is driven off a cliff. MPs are there to exercise judgment. Delegating to Theresa May and David Davis, never mind Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, the settlement of a workable alternative to EU membership is a delusion, not just an abdication.

Brexit is an unparalleled act of economic self-harm. But it was a big mistake to reduce the referendum to this question. The EU represents a vision of society and politics, not just economics. We need to fight on this ground too.

The Europe of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel stands for pluralism, minority rights, the rule of law, international co-operation – and not just a single market. In fact, the real truth about the single market has been lost in translation.

It is not just a market. It is a vision of the good society. Rights (and holidays) for employees, limits on oligopolies, standards for the environment are there to serve the vision. The single market stands against a market society.

This is all the more important in a world where autocratic leadership is on the march. This is not just about China or Russia. The democratic world is itself splitting into authoritarian and pluralist camps. We can see Venezuela has taken a repressive turn. Within the EU, there is a battle to hold Hungary and Poland to their commitments, and Brexit weakens that effort.

And the US is not immune. John Cassidy of the New Yorker has coined the notion of “democratic erosion” – gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression and attacks on the media. Half of Republican voters say they would support the decision if President Trump postponed the next election.

The EU is not just a group of neighbouring countries. It is a coalition of democratic states which pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law and democratic rules. That is not a threat to Britain; it is the team we should be in.

So Britain’s choice about its institutional future is not just about pounds and pence. I favour the closest possible relationship with the EU, not only for economic reasons. The EEA does not just make business sense. Europe represents a vital and historic alliance of democracies, founded on the idea that social, economic and political rights go together and that countries best defend them in unison not isolation.

History makes the point. The post-second world war commitments to rights for individuals have their immediate political origins in the Atlantic Charter, agreed between Churchill and Roosevelt in Newfoundland in 1941. It set out the terms of postwar peace – notably human rights, national self-determination and international co-operation. It was called the “birth certificate of the west” by the former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.

The insight was simple. Globalisation without rules and institutions would not mean more control for ordinary citizens. It would mean less. And less control means more risk to the living standards of those in greatest need. International co-operation was and is a force for social justice and against turbo-capitalism.

President Eisenhower said when you had an insoluble problem, enlarge it. The debate about transitional arrangements and institutional design of our relationship with the EU craves a broader framework. There is nothing more fundamental than the economic, social and political rights that looked like the norm at the end of the cold war. Now they are in retreat. Europe is their bastion. And that is the side we should be on.

David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid, relief and development NGO based in New York. He is writing in a personal capacity


Human Rights Watch Says Current Egyptian Regime Guilty of “Flagrant Human Rights Abuses” — Egypt Slams “Politicised” Report

June 9, 2015



Egypt says Human Rights Watch gives an  “endorsement of terrorist groups and organizations.”

Human rights groups accuse Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of establishing a regime more repressive than that of ex-president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a 2011 popular uprising

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt lashed out Tuesday at a Human Rights Watch report condemning “flagrant human rights abuses” during the first year of PresidentAbdelFattahal-Sisi’s rule, dismissing it as “politicised”.The watchdog released its report on the first anniversary of the inauguration ofSisi, who was sworn in on June 8, 2014, after having ousted his Islamist predecessor MohamedMorsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, in July 2013.”The report is politicised and lacks the basic rules of precision and objectivity,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, accusing HRW of victimising Egypt.

The report reflected HRW’s “endorsement of terrorist operations and supports those who carry out acts of violence”, charged the ministry.

It accused the New York-based group of “leading a systematic campaign against Egypt”.

HRW charged Monday that “over the past year, Sisi and his cabinet have provided near total impunity for security force abuses and issued a raft of laws that severely curtailed civil and political rights”.

Since Morsi’s ouster, hundreds of his supporters have faced a brutal government crackdown that has left hundreds killed in street protests and thousands jailed.

Hundreds of people have also been sentenced to death after mass speedy trials described by the UN as “unprecedented in recent history”.

Rights groups accuse Sisi of establishing a regime more repressive than that of veteran ex-president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a 2011 popular uprising fuelled largely by abuses by police.

Jihadists have retaliated with deadly attacks targeting security forces, especially in Egypt’s North Sinai which borders the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed.

Hong Kong’s Beloved Leader hits back at critics who booed and heckled election plan — Protesters accuse government of “betrayal” saying “We want what we were promised and our human rights”

April 23, 2015


HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s chief hit back at “uncivilised” critics on Thursday after he was booed and heckled by local residents as he tried to promote a newly unveiled, Beijing-backed plan for leadership elections in 2017.

The roadmap for the city’s first ever public vote for its chief executive was announced on Wednesday. It conforms to a controversial ruling from Beijing stipulating that candidates must be pre-screened by a loyalist committee.

That ruling sparked mass protests which lasted more than two months towards the end of last year.

A pro-democracy demonstrators shout slogans during a protest outside the government building in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015

A pro-democracy demonstrators shout slogans during a protest outside the government building in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015 ©Philippe Lopez (AFP)

The government kicked off a promotional campaign to sell the plan after its launch but Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his deputy, Carrie Lam, were drowned out by protesters as they visited a middle-class district late Wednesday.

“Yesterday during the district visit… there were some hecklers who kept using loud voices and quite uncivilised words to try to speak over others,” Leung told reporters Thursday.

“It’s not democratic behaviour,” he said. “We don’t want to see such scenes at every district visit.”

Protesters booed Leung and Lam and blocked their path with yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the democracy movement.

The election proposal triggered a backlash from pro-democracy lawmakers and student leaders, and was slammed by Human Rights Watch, which described it as a “betrayal”.

Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997 under a joint declaration which guaranteed political, social and economic freedoms not enjoyed on the Chinese mainland.

The semi-autonomous city is governed under that “one country, two systems” deal, but there are fears that freedoms are being eroded by increased influence from Beijing.

– Government ‘betrayal’ –

Currently the city’s leader is chosen by a 1,200-strong election committee.

Beijing has promised universal suffrage for the 2017 vote, but has said that candidates must be approved first by a nominating committee.

The constitutional reform package is “legal, feasible, rational and practical”, China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said on Wednesday, according to state news agency Xinhua.

“The central government consistently supports efforts to advance the democratic development” in Hong Kong, it added.

But pro-democracy lawmakers have vowed to block the roadmap when it goes to a vote in Hong Kong’s legislature in the coming months.

Civic Party legislator Kwok Ka-ki called the government “irresponsible” and said that the reform package “in no way” gave the Hong Kong people a real choice.

“We will be very cautious in making sure the people can get the real message instead of receiving a lot of fake messages and lies told by the government,” he told AFP, saying that the opposition campaign would launch Sunday.

Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, described the election plan as an “utter capitulation to Beijing” and a “betrayal of democratic aspirations in Hong Kong”.

“The right to vote and the right to stand for election are fundamental human rights,” she said.

“That the Hong Kong authorities are denying half that equation is a rejection of international law and of the promise of democracy for the citizens there.”

Human Rights Watch said the screening of candidates would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

But justice secretary Rimsky Yuen accused the city’s democracy camp of depriving Hong Kong citizens of a chance to vote by trying to block the bill Thursday.

“It’s not they who are the only sector in the Hong Kong community that we need to take into account,” he said.


Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (R) speaks at a press conference next to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (R) speaks at a press conference next to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015 ©Philippe Lopez (AFP)

A pro-Beijing protester tries to punch a pro-democracy demonstrator after a heated argument outside the government building in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015

A pro-Beijing protester tries to punch a pro-democracy demonstrator after a heated argument outside the government building in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015 ©Philippe Lopez (AFP)

Pro-Beijing (R) and pro-democracy (L) demonstrators stage rallies outside the government building in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015

Pro-Beijing (R) and pro-democracy (L) demonstrators stage rallies outside the government building in Hong Kong on April 22, 2015 ©Philippe Lopez (AFP)


Myanmar: After Crackdown on Students, Myanmar’s Commitment To Democracy, Human Rights Questioned

March 12, 2015


Myanmar backsliding on democracy?

Myanmar student protesters (L) clash with riot police during a march in Letpadan town, some 80 miles north of Myanmar’s main city on March 10, 2015. Getty


YANGON — A student march through central Myanmar in protest against a new education law began as an unremarkable procession from the country’s seat of learning and culture, Mandalay, to the commercial hub of Yangon.

But a little over a week ago, it morphed into a wider protest for political rights that prompted a violent crackdown by police, underlining the troubled nature of Myanmar’s own march toward democracy.

“I lived under military rule all my life and I never experienced such a crackdown,” said Maung Moccy, a student leader and former political prisoner who said he saw police officers batter unarmed students with wooden batons.

“Honestly, I’m afraid they have decided to backslide on democracy.”

The United States and the European Union, which have backed Myanmar’s move towards democracy after half a century of military rule, have condemned the violence in the town of Letpadan, about 140 km (90) miles north of Yangon.

The opposition National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and Myanmar’s icon of political freedom, demanded an inquiry.

Political temperatures are rising in Myanmar as it prepares for parliamentary elections later this year. Ethnic rebels are battling the army near the borders with China and Thailand while the United Nations has accused the government of backtracking on pledges to protect human rights, especially in northern Rakhine state, home to the minority Rohingya Muslims.

The pace of change started by the government of reformist President Thein Sein appears to have slowed, or even stalled.

His government took power in 2011 after 49 years of military rule, but Thein Sein and many of his cabinet colleagues are former generals and serving officers have a guaranteed quarter of the seats in parliament.

Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based independent political analyst, said Myanmar was changing from extremely authoritarian government to a democracy.

“That’s a huge transformation that will take a very long time,” he said.

Of the violence, Horsey said: “It raises very disturbing questions that the government needs to address. It doesn’t mean the reform process is dead. It highlights how complicated and long the reform process will be.”


Tensions over the education policy started in September after the government announced a new law aimed at setting up an independent body to govern universities. Student groups said the law would reduce academic independence and that they should have been consulted before it was drafted.

By February, a handful of student groups had begun marching in protest towards Yangon. Most of them returned home after the government began negotiations to amend the law, but a core group that had set out from Mandalay stopped in Letpadan, where authorities blocked them from advancing.

After a stand-off that lasted almost two weeks, the students agreed to go home, but wanted to carry their protest flags and sing revolutionary songs.

“We always try to make them give up their power, give up military rule,” said Maung Moccy, the student leader. “Today, we want a genuine democratic government.”

Witnesses said that students, monks and journalists were attacked by police when negotiations fell apart.

On Thursday, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper quoted government spokesman Ye Htut as saying: “The government’s handling of the protest will have no impact on democratic reform.”

Ye Htut said the conflict began because the students decided to continue their protest march to Yangon rather than using the parliamentary process to amend the education bill.

“Despite requests for peaceful negotiations, student protesters tried to penetrate the police blockade and the police were legally obligated to disperse them,” he told the newspaper.

Zaw Htay, a senior official from the office of the president, told Reuters that the violence showed the need for continued training of the police and said the government was investigating the incident.

“I can understand that some policemen were emotional and aggressive in handling the angry mob,” he said. “At the same time, I noticed some of them tried to maintain control and give protection.”

In Myanmar, governments have been wary of student protests because of the pivotal role they have played in the country’s history. Suu Kyi’s father, independence hero Aung San, was a student leader when he began opposing the British colonial government.

Student-led protests in Yangon in 1988 sparked a pro-democracy movement that spread throughout the country before being brutally suppressed by the military government.

Complicating matters are laws aimed at suppressing dissent, which remain on the books from the military government era and earlier.

In Letpadan, protesters were accused of violating the Peaceful Assembly Law. The law is a legacy of the former junta and has been amended under the new government, but New York-based Human Rights Watch has called it” seriously flawed”, because it requires local government permission for any gathering.

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


Pro-Democracy Protest in Macau During Xi Jinping’s Visit — “Inspired by Hong Kong’s Occupy/Umbrella Movement”

December 21, 2014


By Peter So and Jeffie Lam in Macau
The South China Morning Post

Pro-democracy protest in Macau during Xi Jinping’s visit, December 20, 2014. Photo by K.Y. Cheng

Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement has inspired the younger generation in Macau to press for universal suffrage in their own city, young locals joining a pro-democracy rally say.

Nearly 100 young protesters took to the streets yesterday as President Xi Jinping urged Macau to strengthen education for the younger generation to safeguard patriotism.

The peaceful rally was organised by the New Macau Association to call for a fair and open political system.

High school pupil Mark Pang, 15, raised a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the Occupy movement – and said: “I don’t want to be brainwashed.”

Mark said he had been keeping an eye on Hong Kong’s civil disobedience action and visited the Admiralty site earlier this month. But he added: “Having the right to elect our chief executive feels like a distant dream.”

Protesters holding yellow umbrellas are stopped by police after trying to gain access to the area where Chinese President Xi Jinping is staying in Macau on December 19, 2014 (AFP Photo/Isaac Lawrence)

The protesters called on their government to roll out political reform next year and implement universal suffrage in 2019.

Form Six pupil Carsun Ho, 17, said Hongkongers were “brave and dedicated” in their pursuit of democracy.

Most Macau residents were conservative in their political outlook, Carsun said, but Occupy had aroused more awareness in society about political rights despite being little reported in the local media.

However, Macau pro-democracy lawmaker Au Kam-sun admitted the turnout was the lowest in recent years for such protests.

“Some people in Macau had started to worry and had reservations about universal suffrage as the Occupy movement dragged on without progress,” Au said.

Xi was in Macau to inaugurate the fourth-term government and mark the 15th anniversary of the city’s handover.

Another local political group, the Labour Party, took the chance to co-organise a march with a trade union that drew hundreds of people, mostly the elderly.

They urged the government to hold direct elections and build more public flats.

The party’s deputy chairman, Lee Kin-yun, criticised the police for infringed their freedom by preventing them from marching on time.

Many of the elderly said they did not know why they were at the rally and refused to give their names. A 71-year-old woman admitted she was there only for the “gifts” given out by the union.

Hong Kong: Chief Executive CY Leung Gives Students Hope Government May Make Concessions Over 2017 Election

October 21, 2014

South China Morning Post

Good afternoon and welcome to’s live blog, on the day that student protesters finally meet with government officials for talks on democracy.

With the government insisting Beijing will not bow to protesters’ demands, and students refusing to leave their demonstration zones until concessions have been made, the two sides remain deadlocked.

Tonight 2,000 police officers will be deployed on the streets of Hong Kong in case trouble flares following the debate.

Stay tuned for all the latest breaking news on Occupy Central.

6pm: The talks have officially started, with moderator Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon laying down the ground rules. “I am the moderator. I am not invited to be the mediator to resolve disputes. The meeting is to discuss political reform,” he says.

5.50pm: The debate participants are all seated around the table and the press are taking photos. After more than three weeks of protests, we are now just minutes away from the start of the evening’s talks.

An estimated 1,000 people are at the Admiralty protest site, while numbers have grown to around 80 in Causeway Bay.

In Mong Kok hopes of a breakthrough are not high in the protest zone.

“I don’t have too high an expectation for tonight, just disappointment,” said protester Cas Chan, 30. “Each side already knows what cards will be played by the other and I don’t see how they will reach a conclusion given that the government stressed that it will not budge.”

Scholarism member Agnes Chow Tong, who recently stepped down as spokesperson, was also in Mong Kok to rally support. “Whether or not you support or against the movement, I hope you can stay between 6pm to 8pm,” she said. “Our goal is the same…we should be able to have the most basic of political rights.”

The scene in Admiralty just ahead of the debate. Photo: SCMP

5.40pm: CY Leung ruffled feathers last night when he suggested genuine universal suffrage would result in poorer people dominating politics in the territory.

“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you’d be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month [HK$13,964.2],” Leung said in comments published by foreign newspapers.

Occupy Central co-founder Dr Chan Kin-man and Scholarism leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung arrive at the debate venue. Photo: Jeffie Lam

5.30pm: All government officials, students and the chair of the debate, Professor Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, have arrived at the Academy of Medicine, where the debate will be held.

Outside the Academy three Form Six students watched the two sides arrive.

Identifying themselves only by their surnames – Lau, Lam and Leung – they said they would go home to watch the debate on tleevision, but if it fails to bear any fruit they would consider returning to the Admiralty protest zone.

Occupy Central co-founder Dr Chan Kin-man and Scholarism leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung have just arrived.

5.20pm: This breaking news just in from Reuters, hinting that the government may be willing to make concessions to the protesters:

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday there was room for the committee that selects candidates for the territory’s 2017 election to be made “more democratic”.

“There’s room for discussion there,” Leung told a small group of journalists on Tuesday. “There’s room to make the nominating committee more democratic.”

The comment was the first indication from Leung of a possible concession to pro-democracy protesters who have blocked streets around the Chinese-controlled city, a former British colony, for more than three weeks.

Freedom House Says Israel is the Only “Free State” in the Middle East

January 22, 2013

Netanyahu vote - AP - April 30, 2012

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, casts his vote, followed by his wife Sara, during the Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. The voting in Israel is ongoing today, Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Photo by AP

The State of Israel “remains the region’s only Free country,” according to the latest annual report by Freedom House, a democracy watchdog organization based in the United States.

The report,  “Freedom in the World 2013,” discussed the state of global freedom, including the impact of the Arab Spring uprisings on the Middle East and on other areas in a detailed executive summary on its home page.

Among the countries that fell under the title, “Worst of the Worst,” which included a list of 47 nations designated as “not free,” nine were given the survey’s lowest possible rating for both political rights and civil liberties. Among them were Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria.

Strikingly, there was nary a mention of the State of Israel in the section on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). But combing through the first section of the full report, one finds the blunt statement that “Israel remains the region’s only Free country.

Arutz Sheva


“In recent years, controversies have surrounded proposed laws that threatened freedom of expression and the rights of civil society organizations,” continued the report. “In most cases, however, these measures have either been quashed by the government or parliament, or struck down by the Supreme Court. Israeli politics have also been roiled by an escalating controversy over the role of ultra-Orthodox Jews and their positions on issues such as military service and gender equality,” the report briefly noted, before summing up the section on the Middle East.

A total of 90 countries in the world were deemed to be “Free” in 2012, representing 46 percent of the world’s 195 polities and some 3 billion people – 43 (23 percent) percent of the global population. There were 58 nations listed as Partly Free, and 47 (24 percent) countries were labeled Not Free.    The number of electoral democracies stood at 117.

Tunisia was praised as having maintained “dramatic improvements” from last year, but “Syria suffered by far the worst repercussions from the Arab Spring,” and “declines were also seen in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.”

Libya and Egypt were both moved from the Not Free to Partly Free categories. 

The report cited “a serious decline in civil liberties in Turkey; and among the Persian Gulf states, a steady and disturbing decline in democratic institutions and an increase in repressive policies.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin was seen has having ushered in a “new period of accelerated repression,” setting the tone for Eurasia to rival the Middle East as “one of the most repressive areas on the globe.” The report referred to laws enacted by Putin designed to “squelch a burgeoning societal opposition” that imposed “severe new penalties” on unauthorized demonstrations while restricting the Internet and limiting the ability of civic groups to raise funds to support their work.

No major gains or declines were noted in Western Europe or North America, although both “continue to grapple with the impact of the financial crisis and, in Europe, an increase in nationalist sentiment in response to an influx of immigrants…”