Freedom House Ranks Taiwan High and China Low, but There is More

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Thursday January 15, by by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

On January 13, Freedom House (FH) presented the 2009 findings of its flagship publication "Freedom in the World." This was the first time the publication had been made in Asia. In doing this, FH purposely chose Taiwan as the place for its presentation, noting that Taiwan after many struggles and sufferings had finally become a "vibrant democracy" and "one of Asia's success stories."

The rankings of Freedom House have three major designations. First, countries are rated on their Political Rights (PR). Questions are asked on the Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, the Functioning and Transparency of the Government and its Meaningful Consultation with all ethnic groups and people. The PR results are graded on a scale of one to seven with one being the highest and seven being the lowest.

Next, countries are rated on their Civil Liberties (CL). Questions are asked on the Freedom of Expression and Belief allowed citizens, the Freedom of Assembly as well as citizen's Associational and Organizational Rights, the Rule of Law, and the Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights allowed people. Again the CL results are graded on a scale of one to seven with one being the highest and seven being the lowest.

Once this is done, the two scores of Political Rights and Civil Liberties are combined and countries are then classified as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

For Taiwan watchers of course the first focus of attention is how Taiwan fared. Answer, it fared very well. Taiwan is rated as a Free country with a PR score of 2 and a CL score of 1. Next they focused on the differences between Taiwan and China and again Taiwan came out smelling like a rose. China, well that is another story. Where Taiwan is a Free Country, China is Not Free. Where Taiwan has a high Political Rights ranking of 2, China has the lowest ranking of 7; where Taiwan has the highest Civil Liberties ranking of 1, China has a near lowest ranking of 6. The only Asian country worse off than China in the rankings is North Korea; that doesn't say much does it. North Korea is not only Not Free but it is both a seven (7) in Political Rights and Civil Liberties.

That Taiwan and China were different was to be expected; but that they would be different on a near polar scale was enlightening. It also makes one wonder at the idiocy of those who would even contemplate a union of Free Taiwan with Not Free China. When you realize it is as bad as wanting to unite a Free Taiwan with Not Free North Korea, the reality sinks in.

A surprise was Singapore which, some vainly try to hold up as an economic model for Taiwan. Singapore scores poorly in Freedom House's rankings. It is Partly Free with PR level of 5 and a CL of 4. That also takes some of the veneer off of Singapore.

Freedom House's complete picture and rankings can be found on their website In closing however, Freedom House also gave an informative caveat to Taiwan. It is being watched. Freedom House considers 2009 to be a crucial year for Taiwan. Already they had noted that liberties were beginning to erode under the current administration of President Ma Ying-jeou. Freedom House had made public its letter of November 20, 2008 calling for an inquiry to abuses in human rights by the Ma administration. That letter is posted on this website on November 22, 2008. Freedom House has noted that things are not as rosy in Taiwan as the government media and pundits would like to proclaim. If they get worse, Taiwan will start to drop in its human rights ranking and get nearer to that of China.