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China, Cuba, Other Authoritarian Regimes Censor News From Iran
"We cannot go directly to our goal," said a graphic designer who co-founded a group that teaches social management and governance in Rangoon and remote towns under the cover of English classes.
Moe Thway, founder of Generation Wave, said Iran's citizens do not appear to be as depressed or despairing as Burma's. Even the most hard-bitten Burmese activists see little hope in taking to the streets for now.
"About Iran, I can't say whether their current movement will change the political trend or not," he said. "Iran and our Burma are still different."
In Venezuela, a South American country that is increasingly polarized, protests against President Hugo Chávez's administration are common. Juan Mejía, 22, said he found the protests in Iran stirring, partly because he felt that opponents of the government in Tehran want the same thing as protesters in Caracas.
"The fact that people have gone out onto the street, that they demand their rights be respected, means to us that they felt there was no liberty and that they want a different country," said Mejía, a student leader who opposes Chávez. "We believe that if the people of the world raise their voices loudly enough -- in Iran, as we do it here in Venezuela, and hopefully one day in Cuba -- then surely we will have a better world."
Venezuela, as opposed to countries such as Cuba and China, holds frequent elections, and dissent remains a part of the political discourse. But in a decade in power, Chávez has taken control of the Congress, the courts and the state oil company, and his opponents charge that he is a dictator in the making.
In China, the Communist Party's propaganda machine has worked furiously to portray the protests in Iran -- already being dubbed the Green Revolution, after the Rose and Orange revolutions earlier this decade in Georgia and Ukraine -- as orchestrated by the United States and other Western powers, not a grass-roots movement. Unlike Western leaders, who have avoided acknowledging Ahmadinejad's claims of victory, President Hu Jintao joined Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in meeting with and congratulating the Iranian president.
On online discussion boards this week, tens of thousands of comments about Iran were shown as deleted; most of those allowed to remain took the official party line on the elections.
China's main message has been that this vulnerable period, with the world hit by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, is no time for a "color revolution."
"Attempts to push the so-called color revolution toward chaos will prove very dangerous," the state-run China Daily said in a recent editorial.
The Chinese government has been especially aggressive this year in cracking down on talk of democracy because 2009 is full of politically sensitive anniversaries. In the most recent move, officials announced Tuesday the formal arrest of Liu Xiaobo, an influential dissident who had helped draft and sign a pro-democracy petition known as Charter 08.
Albert Ho, chairman of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group in Hong Kong, said he sees many parallels between the situation in Iran and the atmosphere in China, citing many "hot spots" on the mainland that could explode into violent protests at any time.