Mon, Jul 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Beijing’s use of economic power a growing concern

Freedom House senior vice president for programs Lisa Dickieson, in an interview on Wednesday with ‘Taipei Times’ reporter Stacy Hsu and ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Lu Yi-hsuan, voiced concern over China’s use of its economic power to pressure international airlines into listing Taiwan as a Chinese territory

Freedom House senior vice president for programs Lisa Dickieson gestures during an interview in Taipei on Wednesday.

Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times

Taipei Times (TT): In Freedom House’s 2018 report, the US saw a decline in its overall ratings. This deterioration of democracy in the US has raised concerns that authoritarian countries like China and Russia could seize the opportunity to export its authoritarianism. What can be done to stop this trend?

Lisa Dickieson: As you have seen from our reports, democracy has been in decline for 12 consecutive years. Freedom House believes it is the biggest crisis of democracy since the end of the Cold War.

First, key countries we thought were democratizing and on a democracy trajectory are now pivoting away from democracy; this includes Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Tanzania and Tunisia.

Secondly, we are seeing increasing challenges in consolidating democratic states, not only in Europe, but also in the US.

Lastly, we are seeing the world’s two most powerful authoritarian states, Russia and China, are becoming increasingly repressive internally. They are also seeking to export their model externally and interfere in democratic states abroad.

Another key factor we are very concerned about is the retreat of the US as a global leader on this issue. The US was the global leader after World War II in helping build the international rules-based order that has provided us with peace and prosperity for over 70 years.

We think the US’ retreat is a very dangerous trend because in the absence of global democratic leadership, it creates a vacuum and the autocrats will come in and fill that.

One of the key elements we think is very important in counteracting these trends and defending democracy is for like-minded organizations, civil society organizations and democratic states to be working together in solidarity and alliance, on regional as well as on the global level.

It is also very important to continue to diagnose the problems in a very granular way.

The pioneering reports Freedom House has created since 1973 break democratic systems down into concrete elements. Then we can assess where we are seeing a weakness and assess trends over time, as well as following whether a country is going up or down or staying the same.

Another thing we believe is critical for stemming these trends is political leadership and support of democracy. We can, as a democracy organization, give activists on the front lines concrete support, but they also need intangible political support that comes from democratic nations.

Freedom House recognizes that the causes for democratic decline are very complex and there are no easy or fast solutions.

However, we believe that working in solidarity and alliance with like-minded organizations and nations, being strategic, rebuilding citizen confidence in democracy and tending to the democratic shortcomings in our own democratic states, are all key steps in the right direction.

Liberty Times (LT): With the US’ recent withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, will it further impact the nation’s contribution to the international community on the issue?

Dickieson: We put out a statement about the withdrawal of the US from the Human Rights Council. We are very disappointed with that. We believe the US should continue to participate in these institutions. We recognize that not all institutions are perfect, probably few are, but it is important for the US to stay to continue to be in the arena.

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