For Iran, Libya, and China, U.K. Rioting Is a Time to Taunt

Authoritarian regimes relish turning the tables on their frequent Western critics

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As British law enforcement combats the rioting and looting by young people that has spread outside London, authoritarian regimes around the world, who've long endured Western criticism over their suppression of citizens, are rebuking England--and, one imagines, the West implicitly--for its response to the mayhem and its vision of how to order society more generally. Here's what they're saying:

  • Iran: On Tuesday, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman demanded that the British government listen to the demands of "protesters" and permit "independent human rights organizations to investigate" violations of "civil rights and civil liberties." On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged British authorities to "correct their brutal behavior," adding that the U.N. Security Council should take action against the U.K. and Britain should empower its people rather than launching military operations in Afghanistan and Libya. Other Iranian lawmakers are piling on, with one characterizing the fatal police shooting of a black man named Mark Duggan last week--which touched off London's riots-as a "blatant violation of human rights" and an example of pervasive racism in British society, and another claiming that "extensive discrimination on weaker classes  is a trait of the capitalist system." Politicians have also called for the British embassy in Tehran to be shuttered. Iran used force to squash the protests that erupted after its disputed 2009 presidential election.
  • Libya: In Tripoli, which NATO is currently bombing as part of a mission to protect civilians, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim called for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his government to relinquish power because they "have lost all legitimacy" through their "violent repression of peaceful demonstrations by police." He demanded that the U.N. Security Council--the very body that authorized NATO's bombing campaign--"not stay with its arms crossed in the face of the flagrant violation of the rights of the British people." State-run television also urged British rioters to "defeat this British regime" that "killed their brothers" during NATO's intervention in Libya, according to The Telegraph.
  • Bahrain: In Bahrain, one of the hot spots of the Arab Spring, an editorial in the independent Gulf Daily News today argues that "if the U.K. hadn't been so occupied fraternising with the political opposition in Bahrain, co-managing a coup in Libya, retreating from its misadventures in Iraq and playing hide and seek with the Taliban in Afghanistan--all at a time when the country's national debt is higher than ever--then it might have realised all was not well in its own backyard." The op-ed wonders why, if the British press is so insistent that the disorder in England is 'pure criminality,' it was "so hard for the same broadcasters and publishers to understand that what happened in Bahrain was not so different, if not worse."
  • Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe, deviating from a prepared speech to the military on Tuesday, urged the U.K. to turn inward rather than impose sanctions on Zimbabwe for human rights violations and election fraud. "Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problem and to that fire which is now blazing all over and leave us alone," he declared. "We do not have any fire here and we do not want them to create unnecessary problems in our country."
  • China: On Monday, the state-run news agency Xinhua raised questions about the safety of London's 2012 Olympic Games (despite considerable safety concerns preceding Beijing's 2008 Olympics) and a commentator at the state-run People's Daily wrote that while Western powers have long touted Internet freedom and condemned countries like China who control the web, they're now "tasting the bitter fruit [of their complacency] and they can't complain about it" (there are reports that London's riots have been partially fueled by social media). But an op-ed in the state-run Global Times today claims that Chinese news outlets have shown admirable restraint during the London riots, refraining from blaming the British for cracking down on a youth 'revolution,' questioning London's ability to host the Olympics, and probing the ethnic tensions behind the unrest. The op-ed urges the British press to "stop being mean" and follow suit:

The riot in London must have something to do with human rights abuses. But it is hypocritical to talk about human rights issues without taking into account of the context. 

These, however, are what the British and some of its media have done to China. 

They enjoy ridiculing China's effort in improving its governance and society, often side with violent rioters and even launch official protests to the Chinese government when social conflicts break out in China. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.