Unstoppable thirst for democracy

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Unstoppable thirst for democracy

A deep sense of helplessness stemming from unemployment and years of political oppression led a 26-year-old street vendor in Tunisia to set himself on fire, triggering an unprecedented rebellion and an end to the country’s 23-year dictatorship.

The anti-autocratic movement spilled over to Egypt in less than a month, unseating President Hosni Mubarak, the country’s leader for three decades.

The revolutionary fervor, with the help of Internet social media sites, swept across North Africa, the Middle East and then on over to China. Defying strong Internet censorship and a crackdown, some Chinese youths emulated the revolution and poured out into the streets for rallies in Shanghai and Beijing.

The worst nightmare of autocrats is coming true.

The despot in Libya, sandwiched between revolutionized Egypt and Tunisia, is likely the next domino to fall. Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, in power for more than four decades, mobilized military and security forces in a desperate move to contain a rash of protests. The death toll may already be as high as 300.

The strongman is headed for his doom if he continues dealing with this situation with violence.

He must pay heed to lessons from his neighbors and comply with public demand since there is no way to stop the turbulence.

Violent and deadly clashes are taking place all across the Arab community, including in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco. The monarchy and theocracy in Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively, are also under pressure.

The inflammatory uprisings in the Arab world cannot be contained. The situation has been brewing for quite some time, with people suffering from inequality, corruption, poverty, unemployment and sky-high prices under decades of oppressive political rule. Youths under the age of 30 - which account for a large share of Islamic communities - are converging and connecting through the Internet and mobile phones.

The new force cannot be blocked by tear gas, gunfire and batons. Instead, the despots should wake up and realize that they are facing an entirely new world. They should either yield their authority or implement radical political reform.

If the democratic fever truly materializes in China, the repercussions may be immense and could even threaten the most reclusive dictatorship of them all: North Korea.

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