Is the right to peaceful protest a fundamental human right? In Europe the answer seems to depend on whom you protest against. The Freedom Rights Project’s Aaron Rhodes and Jacob Mchangama exam the Chinese state visits to several European countries, where diplomatic sensitivities were prioritized at the cost of the rights of peaceful protesters.
“On March 25, 2014, French police banned members of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement persecuted by the Chinese communist party, from demonstrating outside the Chinese embassy during the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The French incident is part of a larger and deeply disturbing pattern surrounding Chinese state visits to European democracies. In at least four other states — Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Hungary — police have cracked down on lawful protests, including messages perceived as offensive or humiliating by the Chinese guests.
European police forces, bound by constitutional principles and both national and international law, have, at the direction of higher authorities, acquiesced to enforcing Chinese red lines.
The willingness of liberal democracies to deprive their own citizens of the exercise of fundamental freedoms, such as the right to peaceful protest, does not bode well for the ability of democracies to push for freedom for the downtrodden abroad. Indeed, it signals that democracies will insist on upholding fundamental freedoms only until emerging powers with economic clout push back”
Read the full article in the Huffington Post here
(Image by Stephen Punter)