Taiwan rated as only Asian country open to civil rights - Focus Taiwan

Taiwan rated as only Asian country open to civil rights

Bangkok, Dec. 4 (CNA) Taiwan has been rated as the only Asian country with open civic space, in a global report that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries worldwide, according to the results released Wednesday in Bangkok.

The annual "People Power Under Attack" report, compiled by the South Africa-based non-governmental organization CIVICUS, ranked the 196 countries in five categories - open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed and closed -- based on their level of basic freedoms, such as freedom of the press and of speech.

Taiwan was among the 43 countries worldwide, and the only one in Asia, ranked in the open category.

Of the 25 Asian countries listed in the report, four were rated as closed, namely China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos, while eight were categorized as repressed, and 10 as obstructed. Civic space in South Korea and Japan was rated as narrowed.

According to the report, the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan in May was one of the few bright spots in Asia in 2019.

Taiwan made history as the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, when the Legislature passed a bill that gave gay couples the right to marry.

In an interview with CNA, Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS, said Taiwan has performed "so much better" than other Asian countries in the field of protecting its people's civil rights and freedom of expression.

Taiwan is a "safe space for human rights defenders" and has a critical role to play in Asia in terms of human rights protection, he said.

However, there is room for improvement in safeguarding the rights of migrant workers in Taiwan, especially those working aboard fishing vessels, Benedict said.

Meanwhile, the annual report said censorship was the most common civic space violation in Asia in 2019, occurring in 20 countries, with China being the worst offender.

The "harassment and attacks" on protesters in Hong Kong is particularly alarming, as civic space is rapidly shrinking in the Chinese special administrative region, the report said.

It was referring to the months-long pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that started in June in opposition to a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to China for trial.

While the bill has since been withdrawn, the protests have morphed into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, but Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have refused to budge on any of the protesters' other demands.

According to the CIVICUS report, the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are backsliding across the world.

In the space of a year, twice as many people are living in countries where these civic freedoms are being violated, which means that 40 percent of the world's population now live in repressed countries, compared with 19 percent in 2018, the report said.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Joseph Yeh)

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