SINCE ITS ESTABLISHMENT in 1941, the US-based international nongovernmental organization for human rights Freedom House has devoted itself to research on and advocating democracy and freedom around the world. It now plays a crucial role in the fight for freedom in the international community.
Freedom House held the global release of its most important publication, Freedom in the World, in Taipei last Tuesday. There was a special significance behind the release in Taiwan: Aside from affirming the achievements over the years in terms of democracy and freedom that have made Taiwan one of Asia’s most dynamic democracies, Freedom House’s decision to release its report in Taiwan at this time may have been an indication that it is concerned with regression of freedom and rights in Taiwan and the challenges that this poses.
The report is based on evaluations of the political rights and civil liberties of 193 countries and 16 regions. Eighty-nine countries were listed as “free,” 62 as “partly free” and 42 as “not free.” Taiwan was listed as “free,” while China was listed as “not free.”
Looking at past ratings, we can see that Taiwan was not listed as a “free” country in 1973. In 1977, it became “partly free” and has been listed as “free” since 1997. Especially worthy of attention is that in 2006, Taiwan scored a 1 for both political rights and civil liberties, which placed it among the freest countries in the world.
This year, Taiwan scored a 2 for political rights and 1 for civil liberties, which means that Taiwan continues to be ranked as a free country. Despite this ranking, Freedom House still requested that the Taiwanese government work on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, as well as judicial independence.
China, meanwhile, scored 7 — the lowest possible score — for political rights and a 6 for civil liberties. Freedom House criticized China for not fulfilling the promises it made to improve human rights when it was granted the right to host the Olympic Games. Freedom House also said that China was strengthening its control of the Internet and media as well as quelling religious freedoms, meddling in the judiciary and crushing human rights.
As Taiwan continues its way toward freedom and democracy, China belongs with the countries that are being left behind. Obviously, freedom is the biggest thing that separates China and Taiwan, and the Taiwanese people need to cherish and uphold the freedom that we have worked so hard to obtain.
Chen Lung-chu is president of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON