Irish Examiner  view: Let’s protect our great privilege

Irish Examiner  view: Let’s protect our great privilege

The death of Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov is a reminder of how vulnerable are those who challenge dictatorships. Picture: Human Rights Center Viasna via AP

One of the distressing gaps in our world is between those of us lucky enough to live where the rule of law prevails and the billions of citizens in settings where autocratic regimes use force to secure their position.

It may seem disproportionate to point to an event in Hong Kong last week when a man was arrested on suspicion of insulting the Chinese national anthem but under a law passed in June, the man faces up to nine years in prison. Despite that, his prospects seem considerably better than those faced by the more than a million Uighur men or women detained in a sprawling network of camps, which China calls "re-education" centres.

If the refusal of Belarusian athlete Krystina Timanovskaya to go home after competing in Tokyo was an unnecessary reminder that oppressive regimes are active on the fringes of Europe too, the discovery of the body of the  Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov in Kyiv early yesterday is a reminder of how vulnerable those brave enough to challenge dictatorships can be. Shishov led a group that helps Belarusians who have left their country find accommodation, jobs, and legal advice, according to its website.

In a response straight from the pages of Orwell, Belarusian authorities — little more than proxies for Russia's Vladimir Putin — characterised anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West, and described the actions of law enforcement agencies as adequate and necessary.

Maybe we, through the EU possibly, should do more to secure our comparative privilege.

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