The first thing we should know is what a republic is, and the oldest known republic is the Netherlands (July 26, 1581).
The Urban Dictionary says a republic is “A system of government ran by elected officials. Not a rare system of government at all. Republic by definition does not imply a concern for human rights or an inclusive democratic system. It just means that a governing body (aristocracy, military, general population, etc.) elected a head of state.”
The Oxford English Dictionary that was first published in 1857 is considered by many the last word on words for over a century. The Oxford says a republic is, “A country that is governed by a president and politicians elected by the people and where there is no king or queen.”
By definition, that makes China a republic. China has its own Constitution, and there are more than 80-million members in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that vote for the country’s elected national leaders, and that includes China’s president. At the village level hundreds of millions of rural Chinese elect their village leaders, and the villagers do not have to be members of the CCP to vote.
China is not the only republic in East Asia.
South Korea started out as an autocratic state with limited political freedom (fancy words for a dictatorship) from 1948 to 1987. There was a military coup in 1961 and General Park ruled until he was assassinated in 1979.
In 1980, martial law was declared in South Korea after the army killed 200 during student demonstrations. Recently, South Korea’s constitutional court upheld a controversial military ban (censorship) on twenty-three books considered subversive. Source: Time
It wouldn’t be until 1986 that South Korea’s constitution was changed and in December 1987, Roh won the first direct presidential election since 1971. The first free parliamentary elections took place in 1988.
Another Asian Republic is Thailand. A Blog about Political Prisoners in Thailand claims that there is no freedom of speech. They claim what you feel or think can get you thrown in jail.
Thailand also passed a Computer Crimes act in 2007. The language in one section sounds similar to language in China’s Constitution that U.S. critics of China often complain about.
In May 2010, Reuters reported that Bangkok was being cleaned up after the worst riots in modern history. “At least 54 people were killed and more than 400 injured in the latest bout of violence which began on May 14. Almost 40 buildings in the city were set on fire and the tourism and retail sectors have been devastated.”
The 1997 Thai Constitution increased legal protections for women and persons with disabilities, but some inequities in the law remained and some protections were not enforced. Violence and societal discrimination against women are still problems. Societal discrimination against hill tribes and religious and ethnic minorities continues. There have been reports of forced labor and child labor. Trafficking in women and children, coerced prostitution and labor are still serious problems. – U.S. Department of State
Then there is Singapore that is also a republic by definition. In fact, Singapore is considered a model republic respected around the world.
However, Human Rights Watch reports, “Singapore remains the textbook example of a politically repressive state,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Individuals who want to criticize or challenge the ruling party’s hold on power can expect to face a life of harassment, lawsuits, and even prison.”
Then there is the United States, a Constitutional Republic where people elect officials that are responsible to run the government according to the U.S. Constitution, a document that was designed by its original authors to be changed through an amendment process.
When the United States became a country on July 4, 1776, there were no political parties and the U.S. Constitution only allowed white men that owned poverty (about 10-percent of the free population in 1776) and were not Jewish to vote for the elected officials that ran a country that had a population of about 2.5 million people (about a half million were slaves). Over time, the U.S. evolved into a multi-party republic that now has almost 330-million people without any legal slaves. Today, women and minorities are allowed to vote for the elected officials that run the country and its states. But back in 1776, about two hundred thousand men could vote. The other 2.3 million could not vote and that included the half million slaves.
Fast forward to today: Southeast Asian Refugees Are the Latest Victims of Trump’s Deportation Crackdown. These refugees have been in the United States since the end of the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975), because they fled to survive when the United States pulled its military out of Southeast Asia and left these people stranded after almost twenty years of warfare. If they had stayed, many if not all of these refugees risked execution or prison, because they were Christians and/or supported the United States during the Vietnam War.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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