Egypt`s revolt met with wide support, censorship
From London to Seoul, the world was savouring the fall of Egypt`s President.
London: From London to Gaza City to Seoul, the world was savouring the spectacular fall of Egypt`s Hosni Mubarak, with demonstrators rallying in the thousands on Saturday in cities across the world. But other authoritarian regimes weren`t celebrating — and some were trying to censor the news.
In China, where the ruling Communist Party ruthlessly stamps out dissent, terse media reports downplayed the large-scale pro-democracy protests in Egypt that forced Mubarak from power and instead emphasised the country`s disorder and lawlessness.
In oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, where coup leader Teodoro Obiang has been in power since 1979, state-controlled media was ordered to stop reporting about Egypt altogether, according to African news site afrol.com.
Nearly everywhere else, newspapers congratulated Egypt`s revolution, with many headlines carrying the word: "Finally”.
The headlines were matched with an outpouring of international support. Human rights group Amnesty International organised dozens of rallies around the world, with events in New York, Chicago, Houston and cities in 15 other countries.
In London`s Trafalgar Square, thousands gathered to see scenes from Tahrir Square beamed via video link on to a giant screen. Salil Shetty, Amnesty`s secretary general, told the crowd that the rally was both a celebration of Mubarak`s departure and a protest against the strongmen still holding sway over the region.
London-born Shariff el-Wardany, 33, whose family is from Cairo, said he was "still numb" that the Egyptian dictator had gone.
"We were told many years ago that we would never see this day," he said. "The elite could go anywhere, do anything, they could commit crimes and nobody could touch them. That`s all changed now."
In the Middle East and Africa, politicians and activists were still struggling to find their footing as the shockwaves from Mubarak`s resignation spread through the region. In Yemen and Algeria, violence erupted as protesters pressed their demands for democratic reforms. In Uganda and Zimbabwe — two countries ruled by long-serving strongmen — opposition figures invoked Mubarak`s downfall as a warning to their current rulers.
In Gaza, a celebratory rally organised by the radical Islamist group Hamas — and the silence maintained by both the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government — spoke to the possible repercussions of Mubarak`s ouster for long-delayed peace process.
Hamas has had a tense, often angry relationship with the deposed Egyptian president, who, along with Israel, has kept Hamas-ruled Gaza blockaded for the past four years. If Egypt`s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood wins a role in any post-Mubarak government, it could help Hamas shore up its position.
Wider afield, the congratulations kept pouring in.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd commended Egyptians on what he called a clear and courageous protest movement.
"My view is that the people of this most ancient civilization truly deserve a most modern of democracies," Rudd told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Japan and South Korea issued statements noting Mubarak`s resignation, while India — which with Egypt was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War — said it welcomed Mubarak`s decision to step down "in deference to the wishes of the people of Egypt”.
In Indonesia and the Philippines, two countries whose own "people power" revolts toppled long-ruling dictators, the praise was more fulsome, although there were words of warning too.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, son of the late President Corazon Aquino — the country`s democracy icon who was swept to power in a revolt that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos — welcomed the "relatively peaceful resolution" of the political crisis in Egypt, saying it showed that "aspirations for a more free and fair society are universal”.
The country`s left-wing alliance Bayan, which fought Marcos and has remained a critic of succeeding regimes, expressed hope that "the great unity and determination of the Egyptian people inspire others worldwide in their fight against tyranny”.
"The importance of people power has once again been affirmed," said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes. "What comes after people power, however, is another difficult challenge, as we Filipinos well know."
Indonesians — who chased longtime Washington ally General Suharto from power in 1998 — largely echoed the sentiment.
"Congrats Egyptians," Luthfi Assyaukanie, leader of Indonesia`s Liberal Islamic Network, wrote on the micro-blogging site Twitter. "I know how you feel today. I had the same feeling 13 years ago. The real struggle has just begun."
In Thailand, which has been rocked by demonstrations aimed at forcing the country`s Prime Minister to step down, protest leader Thida Thavornseth said Egypt`s experience had shown "that the power of the people is enormous and triumphant”.
"(Still) if you take Thailand as an example, the people seemed to have won several times, but in the end, power was passed on to the new dictators who then again suppressed the people," Thida said.