Tue, Jan 26, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan’s political liberties not eroded

By Su Jun-pin 蘇俊賓

In a recent opinion piece (“Democracy and human rights still regressing,” Jan. 12, page 8), Gerrit van der Wees said Taiwan’s freedom and democracy are being eroded. He also predicted that in the Freedom in the World 2010 survey conducted by Freedom House, Taiwan’s rankings would go down.

On the contrary, this year’s survey accords Taiwan the same near-perfect overall score of 1.5 it received in last year’s survey, sharing the same scores in the political rights and civil liberties categories as Japan, for example, and comparable to those of advanced Western democracies.

In Freedom House’s assessment, our average score of 1.5 is the result of an advance in political rights from a score of 2 to the highest score of 1, offset by a decrease in the civil liberties category from 1 to 2.

The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is gratified at the survey’s affirmation of our progress. At the same time, we take seriously the criticisms and recommendations of Freedom House and other organizations and individuals concerning human rights. As we continue our fight against corruption, recognized by Transparency International in its Corruption Perceptions Index 2009, we shall persevere in giving due attention to possible flaws in our judicial system that may violate human rights.

Without elaborating, Van der Wees recommended that “if the Ma administration is really serious about human rights and democracy it will need to seriously rethink its approach and move toward much-needed judicial reform.”

In this regard, I would like to point out that reform of our judicial system — augmenting its ability to effectively deal with corruption and other crimes while respecting and protecting human rights — is an ongoing project that has been progressing steadily, and by all accounts quite successfully, over the past two decades thanks to cooperative efforts across the political spectrum.

Consequently, the independence and neutrality of the judiciary and the sanctity of human rights have become deeply rooted values in Taiwan — a reality evident to observers at home and abroad. Nonetheless, this administration is committed to keep pushing forward on these fronts.

Van der Wees said many observers believe that rapprochement with China has occurred at the expense of democracy and human rights. On this point, this administration’s pledge to put Taiwan first for the benefit of its people most certainly includes the preservation of Taiwan’s free and democratic way of life and rule of law.

As this applies to cross-strait relations, any new mainland policy involving the law must be approved by the legislature. At the same time, government policies and actions are constantly being scrutinized by Taiwan’s free and highly critical media.

Such processes in themselves are embodiments of freedom and democracy. Furthermore, they render it very difficult for any policy that is not supported by public opinion to be implemented. Hence, regardless of one’s views on this government’s policies, one should have faith that, ultimately, Taiwan’s system of government can and will reflect the popular will.

Su Jun-pin is the Government Information Office minister.

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