Taiwan is Second Freest Country in Asia and Hong Kong First

Taiwan is Second Freest Country in Asia and Hong Kong First
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像
What you need to know

Hong Kong is unique in the way that it long enjoyed high levels of not only economic freedom but also personal liberty and income without transitioning to democracy. The territory’s close adherence to the policies and institutions it inherited from the British, including the rule of law, explains the stability of its governing system.

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The National Cato Institute of Intellectual has announced the latest human freedom index, in which Taiwan ranks 24 with 8.22 points, higher than Japan (ranking 28), South Korea (ranking 31) and other Asian countries.

It is surprising that Hong Kong, where the Umbrella Movement took place last year, ranks highest in freedom index with 9.04, even though it ranks second to last in the top ten personal freedom index with 9.09 and ranks first in economic index with 8.98.

Cato Institute, located in Washington D.C., advocates for the rehabilitation of small governments, market-oriented economy and personal freedom. It is considered to be a conservative think tank.

The HFI covers 152 countries for 2012, the most recent year for which sufficient data is available, on a scale of 0 to 10. The top ten freest countries are respectively, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, the U.K. and Sweden.

This report uses two main indicators, personal and economic freedom, and breaks them down into 76 areas, such as Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Religion, Association, Assembly and Civil Society.

The report points out the HFI finds that human freedom is strongly correlated with political and economic indicators. Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significantly higher per capita income (US $30,006) than those in other quartiles; the per capita income in the least-free quartile is US$ 2,615.

In addition, given the link between freedom and democracy, Hong Kong ranking in the top of the index is unexpected.

Being administered by the United Kingdom as a colony at first and ruled by China under its “one country, two systems” model since 1997, Hong Kong has never experienced democracy.

Even so, Hong Kong is unique in the way that it long enjoyed high levels of not only economic freedom but also personal liberty and income without transitioning to democracy. The territory’s close adherence to the policies and institutions it inherited from the British, including the rule of law, explains the stability of its governing system.

The pro-democracy protests represent a political agenda unacceptable to Beijing, and are a reaction of China’s interference in Hong Kong’s policies and institutions, including infringements on freedom of the press and the independence of the legal system. However, the data does not yet capture the most recent developments. As the political future of Hong Kong plays out, the report also believes Hong Kong will see a decline in its freedom ratings.

Taiwan ranks 24 in the freedom index with 8.22, placing only after Hong Kong in Asia.

China ranks 132 among the world with 5.33 in personal freedom and 6.39 in economic freedom and an average freedom index of 5.86, lower than the global average point of 6.96. But the report also shows that China and some minor “economic tigers,” such as Arab monarchies like Bahrain, have provided us with a new model for economic growth. A new political mythology holds that only strictly organized authoritarian regimes can create strategies for growth and wealth, which is better than pluralistic democracies.

Out of 17 regions, the highest levels of freedom are in Northern Europe, North America (Canada and the United States), and Western Europe. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Women’s freedoms, as measured by five relevant indicators in the index, are most protected in Europe and North America and least protected in South Asia, SubSaharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Translated and compiled by June
Edited by Olivia Yang

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