Fri, Jan 30, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Nation ranked among world’s ‘freest’

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Taiwan has again been ranked one of the freest countries in the world by human rights organization Freedom House in its latest annual report, earning a perfect score for political rights.

The nation was given 1.5 points on a sliding scale in which 1 was free and 7 indicated the worst possible oppression in the Freedom in the World report released on Wednesday.

The report evaluated the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories.

Taiwan earned a perfect 1 score for political rights and a 2 for civil liberties.

“Notably, the people of Taiwan, through student protests and local election results during the year, strongly voiced their preference for a future in which popular sovereignty prevails,” the report said.

The Washington-based organization is to publish a detailed report on Taiwan and its democracy in the next few months.

Of the 195 countries surveyed, 89, or 46 percent, were judged to be free, while 55 countries, 28 percent, were said to be partly free and 51, 26 percent, were rated not free.

Thirty-eight percent of the 45 countries and territories surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region were rated as free.

China was near the bottom of the ratings with a 6.5 freedom score — 6 for civil liberties and 7 for political rights.

The report said that during the past year, hardline policies on political freedoms and civil liberties continued in China and harassment of previously tolerated civil organizations, labor leaders, academics and churches intensified.

In Hong Kong, the student-led “Umbrella movement” “epitomized” Beijing’s refusal to countenance the basic tenets of democracy and the ultimate weakness of its legitimacy among the public, Freedom House said.

“It also stood as a powerful reminder that while China’s model of state-driven growth combined with strict political control is attractive to elites in authoritarian settings, ordinary people and especially the young find China’s rejection of freedom profoundly unappealing,” the report said.

More aggressive tactics by authoritarian regimes and an upsurge in terrorist attacks contributed to a “disturbing decline” in global freedom during the last year, it said.

It was the ninth consecutive year in which the organization found an overall decline in freedom.

“Acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government — and of an international system built on democratic ideals — is under greater threat than at any other point in the last 25 years,” said Arch Puddington, vice president for research at the think tank.

Puddington said that until recently, most authoritarian regimes claimed to respect international agreements and paid lip service to the norms of competitive elections and human rights.

However, now they argue for the superiority of what amounts to one-party rule and seek to throw off the constraints of fundamental diplomatic principles, he said.

Nearly twice as many countries suffered declines in this year’s report as registered gains — 61 to 33 — and the number of countries with improvements hit a nine-year low.

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