- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2020

Waves of unrest throughout 2019 triggered an outpouring of resistance from a generation of young people across Asia, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a major new survey Thursday.

The report, “Human Rights in Asia-Pacific: Review of 2019,” offers an overview of the human rights landscape across 25 Asian-Pacific nations, and accused the continent’s two big players, China and India, of increasingly trying to impose their “own bleak, domineering vision on the continent, perceiving minorities as a threat to ‘national security.’”

“It was a year of repression, but also of resistance,” the Amnesty International report concluded.

The report said there had been a “well-documented record of human rights violations” by officials in Hong Kong attempting to quash pro-democracy protests of a new extradition agreement with Beijing. In countries such as India, Thailand and Taiwan, young activists faced discrimination and harsh backlash from police for demonstrating on behalf of freedom of religion and expression.

“Online and offline, youth-led protests are challenging the established order,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s regional director for the Asia Pacific, said.

The report detailed continuing human rights violations around the region, arguing that minorities, women and gays are particularly vulnerable. Police in Hong Kong pegged peaceful demonstrators with rubber bullets and bean bag rounds, sprayed pepper spray and even beat protesters.

“The authorities’ attempts to crush any form of criticism and suppress freedom of expression were as ruthless as they were predictable, with those daring to speak out against repressive governments often paying a high price,” Amnesty Regional Director for South Asia Biraj Patnaik said.

Minorities were under pressure in a number of countries.

China targeted Uighurs, Kazakhs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region. including arbitrary detentions and forced indoctrination. In Sri Lanka, anti-Muslim violence broke out after a string of Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people, mainly Christians.

The Amnesty survey also noted some areas of progress. Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage after a long campaign by young activists, while the Hong Kong protest forced the government to withdraw the extradition bill. The Pakistani government announced it would take special measures to address the air-pollution crisis affected major cities, including a switch to electric cars and improving fuel quality.

“The coming year is likely to be as trying as the one that has just passed,” the Amnesty report said. “But as young activists across Asia have repeatedly shown, where there is no hope, it must be created.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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