Citizens Protest for Change in Oppressive Regimes


Protests erupted in Moscow over the imprisonment of Sergei Furgal.

Karina Borisova, Reporter

Democracy is something the United States was founded on, but what citizens of many countries across the world are still fighting for. In recent weeks, mass protests have broken out in countries including Lebanon, Russia and China. All for different reasons, with distinct causes, methods, and goals, but one root cause-a lack of freedom for many citizens.

Freedom of speech, the freedom to peacefully protest, and free and fair elections are among the many rights we are afforded as Americans that many people in oppressive countries do not have. Less than half of the countries that are in the European Union are “fully democratic” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 index. Democracy has weakened across Central and Eastern Europe as well as Eurasia amid the rise of Chinese and Russian influence. This is according to a new report by Freedom House, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. 

 East of Moscow, in Khabarovsk, a smaller Russian city, thousands of people have been protesting against President Vladimir Putin. Almost 50,000 thousand citizens have shown up to the protest, and many other cities in Russia have had smaller protests. The protests surfaced because Sergei Furgal, who was elected governor of Khabarovsk two years ago in what was  a protest vote against the sitting governor, a member of the United Russian party, Kremlin, was arrested upon returning to Russia after the Russian government poisoned him.

Russian citizens liked Furgal because he did not have a particular ideology. He mostly focused on more practical issues like improving roads, schools, and reducing local corruption. 

People who were in favor of Putin have shifted against him for a different reason recently. His approval rating has significantly dropped within a few months. This is due to his lack of response to COVID-19. He appointed Mikhail Degtyarov, a person who is not an experienced politician from Moscow, which set off more of the local protests. Even with the growing anger and opposition for Putin, that does not mean democracy will come soon, but many citizens still hope that one day things will change. 

Lebanon, a country in the middle east has had tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who took to the streets across the country calling for their social and economic rights, for accountability, an end to corruption, and the resignation of all political representatives. The country’s leaders have been using their positions of power to build themselves up, through favourable deals. A major problem from this is the government corruption which is a reason for the large and loud protests.

China, specifically in Hong Kong, has had many large and aggressive protests. The most significant difference between mainland China and Hong Kong is that the mainland is communist and controlled by a single party while Hong Kong has a limited democracy, each with its own head of government.

In June of 2019, plans began to allow extradition to mainland China, which would have allowed residents to be sent to mainland China. The bill was withdrawn in September but the demonstrations continue to grow in number and in anger. Now people demand full democracy and an inquiry into police actions. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets. After weeks of protests, and leader Carrie Lam eventually said the bill would be suspended indefinitely. Some protesters in Hong Kong  have adopted the motto “Five demands, not one less!” This includes protests not to be characterized as a “riot,” to release arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, and implementation of complete universal suffrage. 

Citizens are fighting for change, they don’t know if it will work or if change will ever come but people have hope, and that is what life is really about. Hope.