Believe it or not, democracy will live or die at the shopping mall

Globally, malls have become renewed public squares. They also are where a revived Chinese democracy movement is finding a home. Demonstrators, peacefully gathering , singing songs of freedom and waving Hong Kong flags, are defying Beijing by packing into places like the Amoy Plaza megamall.

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For the past few years, it has seemed as though China’s powerful economic engine — with projections that it will soon overtake America — propelled the Communist Party’s message and made mainland China look like an unstoppable force. In the shadow of these regular mass protests, the People’s Republic of China now seems like a powerful and towering Goliath facing down Hong Kong’s David.

Thank the shopping mall.

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Hong Kong protesters teach China a thing or two, but they need their own history lessons, too

Pencils sharpened. Check.

Lunches packed. Check.

Yellow helmets and gas masks. Check.

Students in Hong Kong may be skipping the American trend of hauling bulletproof backpacks to school, but they have prepared themselves for both an education and further police confrontation at the start of the school year. This year’s school gear is meant for struggle and survival.

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They have chosen to strike against their classrooms to strengthen the ongoing demand for peace and freedom. Some would argue they are protesting for survival. Adorned in their school uniforms — dress whites with ties — they stand out in contrast to the all-black clothing and black face masks donned by the daily street demonstrators. Umbrellas and tennis rackets are optional attire, used both to shield from water cannons and to volley back tear gas canisters toward the police.

Gearing up for a continuing fight is a necessity. These students — and all Hong Kong protesters — are on their own. Hong Kongers need to plan on self-sufficiency because the world mostly has taken a pass at supporting their fight to preserve their rights and democracy. READ MORE

In a world of populist tyrants, this still was a good week for democracy

Democracy goes through ups and downs, even experiencing recessions like the stock market. This is a particularly tough time for democracies around the world, with some places once judged to have turned the corner on their authoritarian past coming back as bigger, badder, anti-democratic governments. Hungary, Poland, Italy, Russia, the Philippines and several other countries are riding on the edge of populist electoral sentiment.

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This week, however, was a particularly good one for people yearning to be free. It was an especially good week for those wanting to keep or to take back their government. Three nations showed us the way: Turkey, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic.

Let’s face it, democracies around the world are getting challenged by dictators and demagogues. My Hoover Institution colleague Larry Diamond’s new book, “Ill Winds,” assesses this abysmal global state of democracy, finding that these ill winds are whipping up “Russian rage, Chinese ambition, and American complacency.” READ MORE