Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Freedom House and Taiwan

A few weeks ago I wrote that Freedom House had screwed up massively in its most recent interaction with Taiwan, observing....
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.
I was pretty peeved and frustrated at FH's simple, shameful failure to do the right thing last time they were here. So I am happy to see that Freedom House actually spoke out on some of these issues in a piece in yesterday's Taipei Times:
Our meetings with senior officials of both major political parties, as well as leaders of Taiwan’s diverse non-­governmental organizations and academic community, revealed a palpable sense that the political system is becoming less transparent and more exclusive.

Several developments have triggered alarms among Taiwan’s civil society and international observers.

First, the judicial system’s impartiality and ability to hold the current government to account has come into question. The restoration of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to full political control in the aftermath of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) decisive victory in last year’s elections — along with an overwhelming legislative majority for his party — has weakened important checks and balances that had been in place over the previous eight years.....
Next step guys: admit that you totally sucked up KMT propaganda when you downgraded Taiwan in 2007 -- because you can't claim that "important checks and balances that had been in place over the previous eight years" are being weakened and simultaneously claim that things got worse here democracy-wise under Chen in 2007. An apology might be nice too. Restore the 2007 report to a "1" and you will be able to downgrade Taiwan this year as it deserves. And maybe regain some lost credibility as well -- because we will need credible speakers in the outside world in the coming months.....


apple said...

Shouldn't the government be the focus of your criticism rather than Freedom House? Freedom House just publish a couple of numbers which supposedly represent the state of freedom, whatever that means. The government is responsible for upholding the constitution and the rule of law. These are far more important than a couple of numbers on a report.

Anonymous said...

I tink that the KMT has almost more money and inside influence than God, and doesn't give a rat's ass about Freedom House

Robert R. said...

@apple: Michael has criticized the government plenty. That doesn't mean there isn't room for criticism to be placed elsewhere.

However, the self-purported role of Freedom House is to observe and report on government activities in a watch-dog role. And many international organizations look to them for guidance rather than doing their own individual research on freedoms around the world.

While there seem to be plenty of readers of this blog, FH's report gets a much broader readership, and it is critical that they Get It Right(TM).

As for what the KMT cares about the FH report? Well, not a whole lot, but they do have a small care for their international image. As you can see in today's Taipei Times interview, Mayor Ma mentions FH's report. "There is some criticism, but as Freedom House mentioned at its press conference, it would not change its evaluation on Taiwan based on a single incident."