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Stop blaming the colonialists

A protester in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Governments in Myanmar and Hong Kong often blame their woes on their “former colonial overlords”, says Timothy McLaughlin in The Atlantic. But it’s notable that their “disdain” isn’t quite enough to “do away with the onerous laws Britain left behind” – specifically, legislation that allows them to “silence critics and quash dissent”. In Hong Kong, the pro-democracy billionaire Jimmy Lai was jailed last week “for violating the Public Order Ordinance, a series of regulations enacted in 1967” under British rule. Myanmar’s junta has charged deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi under the sweeping 1923 Official Secrets Act, and issued countless arrest warrants “under a section of the country’s 1861 penal code”.  

Most of these laws are “draconian, overly broad and vaguely worded” – as you would expect, given they were designed by “foreign masters” to keep control of unruly charges. Yet rather than repealing these “lasting vestiges of the British empire”, successive leaders in Hong Kong and Myanmar have instead “tweaked and fused them with new rules” to create “even more problematic regulations”. It smacks of hypocrisy. Rail against colonialism all you like – but not while using its worst tools to achieve your own suppressive ends.

Read the full article here.