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The US’ credibility on world stage dims as racial turmoil escalates. But American activism might be a beacon

Protests following the police killing of George Floyd have continued for over a month in the United States and around the world. But the American public was once again shocked by the murder of another African-American man Rayshard Brooks in an arrest, leading to a renewed wave of protests.

The domestic racial unrest in the US – the oldest continuous democracy in the world and a self-perceived global leader – has drawn accusations of hypocrisy.

Many governments and citizens of the world, including those in Indo-Pacific, are questioning how democratic the US really is.

However, inspirational activism by American citizens may offer a silver lining.




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Spotlight on US hypocrisy

Police brutality against people of colour in the US and the way President Donald Trump has responded to ensuing protests present a new chapter in a history of American human rights violations.

China, often scrutinised by the US for racial and religious discrimination and suppression of political activists, was quick to call the US a hypocrite.

While many Indo-Pacific governments are silent on the US domestic situation, the racial problems in the US serve as a reminder that while it prides itself on being a bellweather of freedom, the country tends to say one thing but do another.

The Trump administration initially refused to promote moral values internationally, but he cannot easily divorce himself from US’ global role as the defender of human rights and democracy.

For example, in November last year, Trump signed a bill banning the export of crowd-control munitions to the Hong Kong police. It was an attempt to compel China and Hong Kong to pursue negotiation following the massive anti-government protests.

But the bill contrasts with US’ excessive force against African-Americans and protesters, and Trump’s aggressive language on Twitter.




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Questions on US democratic legitimacy

The death of African-Americans at the hands of US police, the ensuing protests, and the government’s response can be seen to weaken US legitimacy as the champion of human rights and democracy.

The US government has continued seeking to lead the world, including in the Indo-Pacific region. In promoting democracy, the US needs international support more than any other democracies.

In November last year, the US government issued a document called “A Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, in which Washington detailed steps that it has taken to ensure the Indo-Pacific region continues to remain peaceful, prosperous, and secure.

One of the key points in the document deals with the US’ commitment to punish countries for mistreating their citizens.

Even before George Floyd’s death, the US’ international image on respecting American human rights had suffere

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