Taiwan has been rated ahead of the US in Freedom House’s latest Freedom in the World report.
In the annual report released by the Washington-based rights watchdog on Tuesday, Taiwan scored 91 out of 100, beating out France (90), the US (89) and South Korea (82).
Taiwan was given a perfect score — one out of seven, with one representing the most free and seven the least free — in both political rights and civil liberties, as well as receiving one for overall freedom.
Photo: Screenshot from the Freedom House Web Site
The last time Taiwan scored the highest freedom rating was in 2006. Since then, its annual freedom rating had been 1.5.
Last year, Taiwan was rated one for political rights and two for civil liberties.
Freedom House attributed Taiwan’s improved civil liberties to its “demonstrations of media independence and academic freedom in recent years, including in media coverage of the 2016 elections.”
The report said that while the US elections demonstrated “the continued openness and dynamism of the American system,” they also showed that the US is not immune to populist appeals that are being seen across the Atlantic.
The report said that the global rise of populism — namely the UK’s Brexit vote, the US election results and the rising popularity of xenophobic political parties in the EU — marked last year as the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
Even countries that were previously rated “free” by the report suffered setbacks in political rights, civil liberties or both, including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia and the US.
Of the world’s 195 nations, 87 (45 percent), were rated free; 59 (30 percent), were rated partly free and 49 (25 percent), were rated not free.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and China were all considered “not free,” scoring 31, 12, 20, 32 and 15 respectively.
The report said China received a low ranking because of “the chilling effect on private and public discussion, particularly online, generated by cybersecurity and foreign non-governmental organization laws, increased Internet surveillance and heavy sentences handed down to human rights lawyers, microbloggers, grassroots activists and religious believers.”
The state of freedom is evaluated by assigning points from zero to four on a series of 25 indicators for an aggregate score of up to 100.
These scores determine political rights and civil liberties ratings on a scale of one to seven. A nation or territory’s political rights and civil liberties ratings then determine whether it has an overall status of free, partly free or not free.
The Presidential Office yesterday said that the improvement in Taiwan’s freedom rating serves as proof that the nation’s long-term efforts in pursuing progressive values such as democracy, freedom and human rights have earned the recognition of the international community.
“We will continue to adhere to these values and deepen the nation’s democracy in the future, as part of our efforts to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region,” the office said.
Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu
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