“The members of the church, also known as the Mayflower Church, were granted refugee status by the U.N. agency after their arrival in Thailand last year. They say they faced unbearable harassment in China and are seeking asylum in the United States.”
“Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Saturday urging the Thai government not to deport the group due to “the grave dangers facing Christians back in China.”
In its annual report last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said the Chinese Communist Party requires religious groups to support its rule and political objectives, including by altering their religious teachings to conform with the party’s ideology and policy. “Both registered and unregistered religious groups and individuals who run afoul of the CCP face harassment, detention, arrest, imprisonment, and other abuses,” the commission said.”
“Supporters of populist former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace Sunday, a week after Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, was sworn in as Brazil’s new president.
Thousands of people loyal to the right-wing Bolsonaro broke through police barricades and entered the Congress and Supreme Court buildings. Bolsonaro’s supporters — called Bolsonaristas — also surrounded the presidential palace, calling for Lula’s resignation, though the president was on an official state trip to Araquara and not in the capital, Brasília. Congress was also on recess, leaving the building mostly empty.
Lula made an official statement at 4 pm ET, saying he would sign an emergency decree, in effect till January 31, allowing the federal government to implement “any measures necessary” to calm the unrest in the capital.
“They took advantage of the silence on Sunday, when we are still setting up the government, to do what they did,” Lula’s account tweeted Sunday. “And you know that there are several speeches by the former president encouraging this. And this is also his responsibility and the parties that supported him.”
Videos of Bolsonaristas draped in yellow flags and sitting at the desks of lawmakers appeared on Twitter Sunday afternoon in a scene reminiscent of the January 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol building by right-wing supporters of former US President Donald Trump. Throughout the afternoon, protesters destroyed windows in the Supreme Court building, flew the Brazilian imperial flag above the Congress building, set fire to a carpet in the lower house of Congress, looted gifts from foreign dignitaries, and reportedly attacked a photojournalist from the news outlet Metropoles.
Police forces at the capitol initially used tear gas against the protesters; however, that failed to deter protesters and drove the guards to seek cover behind the building. The Brazilian Armed Forces and anti-riot police, as well as the entire police force of the state of Brasília, have been called up in an attempt to quell the protests”
“the Bolsonaristas are animated by the belief that Brazil’s 2022 elections were rigged, and that Bolsonaro is the true winner of the election. Bolsonaro has been in the United States since Lula’s January 1, 2023, inauguration and has not yet publicly commented on the situation.
Lula won a runoff election against Bolsonaro last October, marking a return to power after a stint in prison on corruption charges. Lula, a left-wing former president who helped raise the standard of living for millions of Brazilians by strengthening the country’s social programs, first served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010. He was in prison from 2018 to 2021.”
“Occupying the office without credibility will not lead to obedience. Chinese officials are very skilled at disobeying without getting caught. There is a Chinese saying, “There are policies from the top, and there are countermeasures at the bottom.” They have various ways to handle it. When others do not have faith in you, when you have no credibility and receive no acceptance, you are in big trouble. Your orders might not be carried out at all. Others might have ways to have your orders vanish into thin air.”
“The high-tech surveillance Xi Jinping employs to control society does lead to the belief that it is increasingly difficult, even impossible, to overthrow the regime using traditional tactics. But the problem is that high tech is not only accessible to Xi Jinping. The masses can master it, too. Resisters can also make use of these high tech means. Both sides enjoy equal opportunities. The key is whether there is enough confidence to take actions to overthrow the Communist Party. But of course Cai Xia and some other friends don’t always share the same opinions. They are anti-Xi, but not anti-communism. They oppose Xi Jinping, but not the Communist Party. They think such a stance can be accepted by more people. But I believe we not only need to oppose Xi Jinping, but also the Communist Party. If we could get rid of Xi Jinping, the Communist Party won’t last long either, the end will be near. At least, when it comes to that, the Communist Party might reform itself, thus creating an opportunity for democracy. I am still relatively optimistic. I don’t believe Xi Jinping could control everything. Especially when no one trusts you and you still need people to manage the surveillance system, would they be loyal to you? So, I think there are still opportunities.”
“The past 20-some years have proved that an open tyranny is even better at deceiving. During these 20-some years, major Western businesses have invested in China and painted a pretty picture of China for the outside world. A lot of the American people have come to believe it, thus letting down their guard against China. A lot of academics are also advocating for China. China’s infiltration of the U.S. has led to problems in the health of the American system. Now Americans are starting to realize how serious the infiltration is. It is close to taking control of our regime, our thinking. This situation, this is exactly the result of Deng Xiaoping’s open tyranny.
On the contrary, as Xi Jinping closes up the country, more and more people might be able to see the true face of the authoritarian regime, the danger it poses to the U.S. and its neighboring countries. Also, without the support of the people, it might grow increasingly weak, and it’s paradoxically not as dangerous as that of the open society under Deng Xiaoping. Therefore right now is the best opportunity for the people to confront the Communist Party.”
“I believe the overseas democracy movement has paramount importance. Mobilizing international pressure gives domestic dissidents some room to maneuver. The Communist Party fears global public opinion. They always have, right from the beginning. The party talks about how it fears nothing on the international stage, but it is terrified. This is a “merit” of the Communist Party — it knows it cannot alienate the whole world. So an important job for us overseas is to mobilize the international community to put pressure on the Communist Party.
Another important job is to facilitate the flow of information to the domestic audience, such as what democracy in America looks like, and why it is good. We utilize all channels. There are more and more channels nowadays, including social media. I have hundreds of thousands followers on my Twitter, and half of them are using Twitter through a VPN. They send their greetings so I know they come from within China. This is how we communicate information and discuss problems with people inside China, how we explain issues that they find perplexing. I think this is also very important to the future democratization. Because democracy in China can only be established by the people in China. It cannot depend on people overseas. The majority of those overseas are never able to return. The more the people in China know, the smoother the process of establishing democracy will be. So, this is an important part of our work. These two are our main tasks.”
“The impeachment of Peru’s populist president has set off a political and constitutional firestorm, prompting nationwide protests against the government and creating a diplomatic rift with Mexico. Peru’s Congress has preliminarily backed a proposal that will allow for presidential and legislative elections in April 2024, two years ahead of schedule, according to the Associated Press.
Popular protests against the government have raged in Peru since lawmakers voted to remove President Pedro Castillo from office…Castillo, who emerged as the surprise winner of a heavily contested presidential election in July 2021, had already been the subject of two separate impeachment inquiries led by the opposition-controlled Congress over corruption allegations. After announcing he would dissolve the Congress and rule by decree, a move many observers decried as a “self-coup,” Congress moved expeditiously to remove Castillo from office, arrest him on corruption and treason charges, and install his vice president, Dina Boluarte, as president. The removal of Castillo immediately sparked nationwide protests, especially in the country’s interior and southern Andean regions where large sections of Peru’s indigenous and mixed-ancestry communities live.
Peru’s indigenous communities, which have largely felt neglected and dismissed by the political elite in the capital of Lima, have been at the forefront of these protests. To them, Castillo, who drew much of his electoral support from the interior and the Andean south, was a champion of indigenous interests, alleged corruption notwithstanding.”
“In the end, the insurrection was just the back-up plan. That’s one critical finding by the Jan. 6 select committee to keep in mind when digesting its sweeping criminal referrals of Donald Trump.
The former president floated the idea of marching on the Capitol with a “large and wild crowd” only after his White House advisers and lawyers aggressively tried to quash a quilt of crazy schemes to use federal courts, election administrators, state legislators and ersatz presidential electors to thwart the lawful, peaceful transfer of power. It was a last-ditch resort. And the violence of Jan. 6 would have had its intended effect only if some of those legal machinations had already put enough sand in the gears of the democratic process.”
“consider the sitting politicians who coordinated with Trump’s illegal efforts to thwart the democratic process. A facile take would be that election denialists allied with Trump were roundly defeated in the midterms. But this is just not so: Incumbent Republicans who denied the truth about the election, in fact, overwhelmingly won last month, and their voters continue to have low levels of trust in the election process. And as misinformation explodes afresh on Twitter, it would be reckless to imagine that candidates’ lies about how our democracy and laws are working will somehow abate.”
“there is no durable mechanism in place to forestall or punish elected representatives who violate the public trust in this way. Specifically, there is no clear, legislated structure to bar insurrectionists from holding office as required by Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“consider those who participated in the fake slates of electors. The process of certification, and wide array of state officials and private citizens involved in it, remains vulnerable to wrongdoing at multiple points. The committee’s referral to DOJ on making false statements rightly homes in upon the fake presidential elector slates. Such prosecutions may well have real deterrence effects. This is important because so far, state prosecutors in six out of seven states are failing to investigate or bring charges after false slates were assembled, voted upon and transmitted to the U.S. Archivist.”
“the Jan. 6 committee has plausibly broken through to the broader public. It would be a profound shame if the committee’s vital work was misunderstood as a howl for revenge, rather than the more profound call for democratic renewal that it truly is.”
“the Islamic Republic, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, executed 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari for the crime of “waging war against God,” or moharebeh in Farsi.
Shekari was the first prisoner to be executed due to the recent unrest, in what Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, head of the Norway-based organization Iran Human Rights, characterized as a “show trial without any due process.”
With Shekari’s execution — likely the first of dozens — the Iranian regime is reverting to a tried and tested playbook of executing political opponents and dissidents. But it’s not clear that the mass imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, and further possible state-sanctioned executions will deter the protesters who have for more than two months now defied crackdowns and curfews to call for an end to Khamenei’s regime.
It’s also not clear what success looks like for the protesters should they somehow manage to topple the regime that’s had an iron grip on the nation since the 1979 revolution — or how they would manage to do so in the first place.
The inciting spark for the now 11-week-long protests was the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16 while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Amini, a 21-year old Kurdish woman, was arrested while in Tehran for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly; since her death, she has become a potent symbol of many Iranians’ contempt for the country’s oppressive theocracy.
The protests have gained momentum since they began in Amini’s hometown of Saqez, in Iranian Kurdistan, appearing in dozens of cities throughout the Islamic Republic despite the government’s efforts — including internet and mobile network disruptions, mass arrests, and civilian killings — to quash them.
There are some ways this protest echoes past movements, but there are also key differences — not just the longevity, but the degree of societal cohesion and solidarity, too. Women have led and become the public face of this movement — a particularly notable fact in 2022, given the ways that women have been repressed under the current regime.
All of that, however, doesn’t mean that this movement will bring down the Islamic Republic; decades of repression, a poor economic outlook, extremely limited opposition in the political establishment, plus the fact that the military and security service as well as the economic elite continue to throw their lot in with the regime make it difficult to imagine an alternative vision for the future of Iran.”
“a DeSantis victory in 2024 would not, in any sense, represent a return to Republican pre-Trump normalcy or the triumph of the “traditional GOP,” as some observers see it.
The Florida governor, who won a blowout victory in his reelection bid..is not a Republican cut from the Bush-Cheney-Romney cloth. He represents an evolution of Trumpism, a new way of channeling the illiberal populist forces unleashed by the former president’s rise to power in 2016.”
His ascendancy as Trump’s principal challenger represents not the return of the GOP establishment, but its adaptation to the insurgency that defeated it six years ago. His model is less John McCain or Mitt Romney, the last two GOP nominees before Trump, than Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — a leader who, after being elected in 2010, proceeded to use his right-wing populist ideology as a cover for authoritarian power grabs.
This is not to say that Trump and DeSantis are identical. In fact, they represent two related but distinct versions of American right-wing populism: Trump its wild id, DeSantis its more calculating and intellectualized ego. If one looks closely at which prominent conservatives and media voices are backing which candidate, these subtle distinctions become clearer — pointing to the different ways that these two figures threaten liberal-democratic norms.
These distinctions are real, important, and, as an intellectual matter, quite interesting. But they should not obscure what this matchup really represents.
DeSantis versus Trump is not normalcy versus radicalism. It’s American Orbánism versus the berserk.”
“DeSantis’s Trumpism, like the original flavor, contained a healthy dose of hostility to basic liberal-democratic norms. After Florida voters passed a ballot initiative in 2018 that would end felon disenfranchisement, DeSantis signed a bill that would require felons to pay outstanding fines in order to vote — a poll tax, in effect, linked to debts so opaque and/or punitive that many could not feasibly pay them. In 2020, the ACLU argued that his law would functionally disenfranchise “hundreds of thousands” Floridians.
While not explicitly declaring the 2020 election stolen, DeSantis will not condemn “stop the steal” conspiracy theories when asked by reporters. He campaigned for hardcore deniers like Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano and, on the anniversary of the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, downplayed its severity and mocked the media for continuing to focus on the day’s events. In advance of the 2022 elections, he allocated over a million dollars in state funds to a new police unit dedicated to investigating “voter fraud,” including violations of his pay-to-vote bill. The squad found virtually no actual crime but may have worked to deter lawful voters from showing up at the polls.
When Florida’s state legislature drew fairer election maps for the House in 2022, DeSantis vetoed them — demanding more Republican-tilted maps. He got what he wanted, delivering a multi-seat rightward swing”
“Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth warned that DeSantis’s governing record in Florida resembles some steps that “electoral authoritarians” like Orbán use to consolidate power. Chenoweth is most concerned by the efforts to disenfranchise felons and crack down on “voter fraud,” but notes a number of other troubling examples:
“DeSantis also signed a law that aggressively restricts the ability of people to submit others’ absentee ballots, which upended long-standing community organizations’ efforts to make it easier for working people and people with disabilities to vote. Along with partisan redistricting that dramatically reduces competition and representation, limits on expression in public schools, harsh penalties for various forms of protest, and trafficking immigrants as a political stunt with impunity, for example, we can see the hallmarks of electoral authoritarianism.”
The comparison to Hungary is not mere liberal slander. Rod Dreher, a prominent conservative pundit and one of Orbán’s biggest stateside fans, has suggested that “maybe Florida is becoming our American Hungary.” Not coincidentally, Dreher concluded after the midterms that “DeSantis’s smashing Florida victory last night makes him the head of the conservative movement.”
In this, Dreher is speaking for a broad swath of so-called “national conservative” or “New Right” intellectuals: the pundits and academics who have dedicated themselves to theorizing a new kind of American conservatism compatible with the populist sentiment unleashed by Trump. This corner of the right, where the culture war is paramount and Orbán is seen as a model, believes DeSantis better embodies the qualities they admired in Trump.”
“The substance of the arguments for Trump or DeSantis is in some ways less revealing than the identity of the advocates themselves. On the one hand, you have those on the right who dream of Budapest on the Potomac; on the other, congressional bomb-throwers who enjoy nothing more than battling the left under the ring lights. Each represents a different vision of how to challenge the American political status quo, to pull it in a more illiberal and less democratic direction.
Elements of this radicalism have always been a part of the conservative movement. Prior to Trump, there was a sense among many that the “responsible” elite could prevent things from going too far.
That they are now backing a figure as illiberal as DeSantis proves that this guardrail has completely fallen off — if it was ever in place to begin with.”
“The Iranian regime is struggling to crush a massive wave of nimble and durable protests, unlike any the Islamic Republic has faced in the past. The leaderless movement has grown in strength despite increasingly harsh crackdowns, relying on unprecedented solidarity between ethnic minorities, different religious groups, and men allied with protesting women.
The movement started in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurd from Saqez in northwest Iran, who was arrested in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly and who later died in police custody. Protests in Saqez quickly spread to Tehran and other cities throughout the country. Now in their third month, the protests show no signs of stopping, despite the shocking violence security forces have deployed against the demonstrators, including savage beatings, mass arrests, and indiscriminate killings of protesters, including children.”
“more than 300 have been killed during the protests. That number includes roughly 50 children under 18, the New York Times’ Farnaz Fassihi reported last week. But casualties and arrests are difficult to track; social media and internet access have been severely curtailed, and foreign reporters can’t access the country. Thus far, five protesters are set to be executed for participating in the uprising.”