Russia and China
The murder of Anna Politkovskaya just over a week ago, is one that has caused great concern, not least to the issue of free speech and general worry as to just who was responsible. Now I don't believe the Russian govt are behind this (they weren't Politkovskaya's main targets for one thing), but it was clearly an organised murder and one just wonders whether the malcontents who were behind it will ever be exposed and caught. If they think they silenced her voice though, they are gravely mistaken. Genuine martyrdom for ones beliefs (as opposed to those who commit suicide by blowing themselves up in a public place with the aim of mass murder) can carry a powerful voice.
But this is part of a wider concern as to where Russia is going, what kind of country it is, and how well it has developed from it's painful transition to democracy! Similar things are said about China. The latter is still a communist dictatorship, but some of that is in name only. China has opened economically and has a considerable degree of private enterprise, but there are concerns about it's human rights record and indeed it's future as a potential democracy, as the state seems reluctant to give up it's control over power.
Now those who detract from this argument will say that the West is not much better, and in some ways they are right (when one sees incidents like the abuses at Guantamano Bay), but at least people there have the right to not only protest, but to have some choice in a change of government. It's not a perfect system (name me one that is!) but it is a worthwhile one and one that improves. I have every faith that Russia is already firmly on that road itself (it already has a multi-party democracy), but China does need to improve it's human rights record and become more open as a nation. It's already done much in the past thirty-five years and there is much about the country which is good, but it can do more! Indeed, if vast improvements are made then more effective criticisms will be made of where western governments go wrong! In any case they are both countries which, I for one, am rather fond of and indeed, their voice on the UN is worthwhile and much appreciated!