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Taiwan placed on democracy watch list

Taiwan placed on democracy watch list
Taiwan placed on democracy watch list

Taiwan placed on democracy watch list

Taiwan placed on democracy watch list

The release by the New York-based Freedom House of its annual ``Freedom in the World 2009`` survey of political rights and civil liberties in over 190 countries in Taipei yesterday both marked an affirmation of the strategic value of Taiwan`s democratic transition and a veiled alert over whether the restoration of the right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) to power is leading to a reversal in our democratic progress.

In general, the Freedom House report warned that democratic systems and values faced serious pressure generally in the past year and would face even more difficult challenges in the coming year for numerous reasons, including the differential impact on free, partly free and unfree countries of the global financial crisis that erupted in the United States last year.

Importantly, the Freedom House surveys point to an erosion in worldwide freedom since 2005 that is worrying for both the global community and Taiwan as well.

In our views, this trend may well be connected with the misguided and deceptive ``war on terror`` launched by rightist outgoing Republican U.S. President George W. Bush, whose eight years of ``America first`` unilateralism featured a deceptive illegal colonial war in Iraq under the false colors of ``promoting freedom`` and flagrant violations of the Geneva conventions and other human rights covenants.

Besides sullying the values of democracy and freedom, Bush II`s adventurism diverted attention away from fundamental global and national political, social, environmental and economic problems and, combined with militant market fundamentalism, trigged the current global financial crisis.

More directly relevant, Bush`s myopic obsession with the ``war on terror`` opened space for autocratic regional hegemonic powers, notably Russia and the People`s Republic of China, to extend political and economic domination over their neighbors.

Besides facing intensifying pressure from an autocratic PRC, Taiwan`s democracy has also been a victim of the Bush imperium`s strategy of ``regime change`` in order to punish the former Democratic Progressive Party administration of ex president Chen Shui-bian ``trouble-making`` assertive defence of Taiwan sovereignty and commitment to deepening democracy despite opposition from PRC, which Bush II was determined to appease to achieve ``war on terrorism.``

Hopes for self-correction

As with all of the 192 countries and 15 ``disputed territories`` included in the annual survey, the review of Taiwan`s status considered all of the events of the past year.

Therefore, its evaluation included review of events such as the major protests in Taipei against the visit of PRC envoy Chen Yunlin in early November and the related accusations of excessive police mobilization and use of force and denial of civil liberties, and growing alarm over evident political interference and eroding judicial independence in relation to the prosecution and detention of numerous present and former DPP government officials, notably ex-president Chen Shui-bian, in the wake of the restoration of KMT one - party dominance.

Nevertheless, the Freedom House analysts affirmed Taiwan`s status as one of Asia`s ``free countries`` with high ratings of ``two`` out of seven in ``political rights`` and top rating of ``one`` in civil liberties.

However, the Freedom House team also indicated international human rights groups would closely monitor Taiwan in the coming ``critical year`` of 2009 in field such as improvement in freedoms of assembly, judicial independence and news freedom.

In addition to methodological rigor and confidence the ``self-correcting`` mechanisms in democratic societies including institutional checks and balances and ``push - back`` from civil society, Freedom House may also hope that the combination of an overall affirmation of the strategic importance and the intrinsic value of Taiwan`s democratic achievements and the implied placing of our island democracy on a tacit watch list should be enough to encourage President Ma Ying-jeou`s KMT government to take the voices of civil society and Taiwan citizens seriously.

Unfortunately, given the out-of-hand rejection by KMT government officials of expressions of concern by international human rights groups, including Freedom House itself, regarding the evident regression in respect for human rights and civil liberties, we are not optimistic that such a principled and subtle strategy will bear fruit.

The mentality of impunity

Instead, we believe Freedom House may have overlooked the importance of the perpetuation of ingrained authoritarian and ``great China`` mentalities in the KMT camp and the absence of even one rotation of power in the Legislative Yuan.

The latter phenomenon has left the institutional and legal foundations of the former KMT party-state intact and has thereby facilitated the rapid resurfacing of much of the former KMT authoritarian party - state system with no effective checks or balances along with renewed opportunities for institutional corruption.

Hence, we believe it is quite possible that Freedom House`s decision to refrain from even delivering a symbolic wrist slap, despite the evident retrograde movement in democratic institutional balance and human, civic and judicial rights, will foster a sense of impunity among KMT leadership ranks and may result in the loss of an important opportunity to nip the process of democratic regression in Taiwan before irreparable damage has been done.

Updated : 2021-10-23 19:38 GMT+08:00