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Promoting Democracy in Asia


A pro-democracy protester walks in the occupied area of the Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong. (File)

Promoting democracy and human rights in Asia is of crucial importance to the United States.

In testimony before Congress regarding the state of democracy in Asia, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel spoke of the crucial importance of promoting democracy and human rights.

Helping to further democratic governance is not only the right thing to do, said Assistant Secretary of State Malinowski, it also advances our strategic interest by building more stable societies; and, most importantly, “it aligns the United States with the aspirations of everyday people across this region.”

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marciel highlighted U.S. efforts to promote democracy in three very different places: Cambodia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

After the 2013 parliamentary election in Cambodia, the United States –- particularly through its embassy in Phnom Penh -- worked to help bring the government and opposition together in direct dialogue to resolve a year-long standoff. Much work still remains, but now the two sides sit in parliament together, said Mr. Marciel. Regarding Cambodia’s civil society, the United States is connecting directly with a new generation of leaders, and standing with Cambodians who are pushing for a voice as new laws are drafted. “This,” he said, “sends a reminder that democracy isn’t only about free elections, it’s also about citizens’ ability to hold their governments accountable.”

Thailand has long been a friend and ally, and the United States has stood for democracy there through a decade of political turmoil. Our message to the government since the 2014 coup, said Mr. Marciel, is that our bilateral relationship can be restored to its fullest only when democracy is reestablished. It is critical for Thailand to have an inclusive political process and to fully restore civil liberties.

Regarding Hong Kong, the United States has consistently voiced its core belief that an open society respecting the rights of its citizens is essential to Hong Kong’s continued stability and prosperity. With respect to electoral reform, Mr. Marciel noted the United States continues to affirm its long-standing position that the legitimacy of the chief executive and of Hong Kong’s overall governance can be enhanced through a competitive election that features a meaningful choice of candidates who represent the will of the voters.

The work to promote good governance is never complete, but the United States will continue to support efforts to build and strengthen democracy in Asia.

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