As the year 2010 drew to a close, a series of disturbing events brought into sharp relief the challenges confronting the partisans of global freedom. In the most notorious case, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party created an unprecedented international confrontation over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident intellectual Liu Xiaobo. Having failed to intimidate the Nobel committee into rejecting Liu, the authorities in Beijing threatened economic retaliation against Norway, hinted at reprisals against other governments that sent representatives to the award ceremony, and cast a dragnet for Liu’s relatives and fellow dissidents, dozens of whom were arrested or confined to their homes by police.
Meanwhile, parliamentary elections in Egypt resulted in a 95 percent vote for longtime president Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Elections in Belarus had a similarly implausible outcome, as President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has held power for 16 years, won a new term with an astonishing 80 percent of the vote. When protesters filled the streets of Minsk to object to polling practices that were strongly criticized by outside monitors, Lukashenka ordered a massive police crackdown, sneering that “there will be no more mindless democracy in this country.”