Friday, January 16, 2009

Freedom House Effs Up. Again.

Taiwan astronomers have named an asteroid after the Tsou tribe of Taiwan. But speaking of gazing, in the Panopticon of the international media I was looking at the Washington Post today and I realized after running a search that the Post has a serious skew in its Taiwan reporting: it has carried none of the articles on Taiwan that convey what is actually happening here with Taiwan-China relations, the detentions, the letters, the Chen Judge Swap... but you can be sure that there is an article on the pair of Capitulationist Raccoons, as well as that completely asinine Hong Kong movie about the Chen Shui-bian assassination. You know, the really important stuff. Hope I just missed it... Off to write letters.....

Meanwhile, other gazes turned to Taiwan, and both missed, and misfired. Taiwan News predicted what actually occurred today in its editorial:

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.


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.
The prediction in the final paragraph came true this afternoon as Freedom House's failure to censure resulted in President Ma telling three Freedom House researchers that the fact that Freedom House failed to say anything about Taiwan proves that Taiwan's rights situation had not regressed.

Even more ironic is that last year's summary for the Taiwan report stated in its opening paragraphs:

Taiwan's political rights rating declined from 1 to 2 due to concerns about corruption, particularly links among politicians, business, and organized crime.
In other words, even as political rights expanded for eight years under the Chen Administration, Freedom House downgraded Taiwan from 1 to 2 in 2007 (last year's report is a farrago of KMT propaganda, poorly researched and written) due to "corruption, particularly links among politicians, business, and organized crime" (lucky we don't have that anymore, eh?). But this year, when the KMT repoliticized the military after years of DPP struggle to assert civilian control over it, when it removed a judge in the Chen case whose rulings it didn't like, when it carried out an apparent campaign of detentions against DPP politicians, when it re-integrated party and state... Freedom House not only does not downgrade the nation's rating, it remains fundamentally silent, encouraging these disturbing trends.

A missed opportunity, and absolutely shameful. Hopefully the tiny seed of promise implied in its expressions of concern over the Chen Yunlin mess will blossom into something useful and influential in the coming year.

1 comment:

Raj said...

I see that someone was mentioned in the Asia Times Online today, Michael. ;)