Switzerland and Malaysia: Gold Stars and Demerits in the Struggle for Democracy

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From time to time, the Freedom at Issue blog highlights those whose recent actions have contributed to or undermined the spread of democracy around the world.

Gold Star

Swiss law enforcement agencies, along with the U.S. Justice Department and FBI, for their ongoing probes into alleged corruption at FIFA. The Swiss deserve special credit for their focus on the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar. Both are authoritarian states that deny their people fundamental rights, and both, like other such regimes, have exploited international sporting events to burnish their images. The Kremlin has predictably denounced the new investigations as “another case of illegal extraterritorial use of U.S. law.” Dictators are most at home in opaque systems of payoffs and kickbacks, and any effort to make FIFA less hospitable to them should be heartily applauded.

Demerit

Malaysian law enforcement agencies, for their craven decision on May 26 to deny entry to Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong, who had been scheduled to speak to fellow youth activists across the country. Malaysia’s police inspector general, calling Wong an “undesirable element,” told reporters that “We know his anti-China speeches. We do not want him to jeopardize our ties with China.” Wong was a leading figure in last year’s prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong, known as the Umbrella Movement, which sought direct elections for the autonomous city’s chief executive. In addition to their stated concerns about angering China, Malaysian officials were also apparently worried about greater student activism against the country’s own semi-authoritarian political system.  

Photo Credit: A mural painting of Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong. (Flickr/Creative Commons). 

Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.

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