“Level” of Freedom, the Reflection

In an article I blogged yesterday: January 14, 2009 titled, The “Level” of Freedom, I’ve discussed how the Freedom House have came to decision in their ranking of Taiwan as a “Free Country” and did comparisons in actions withing China, Taiwan and the United States.

Today, I am going to discuss the current situation, what is being under investigation and how our economy has risked us in the “level of freedom” in international recognition.  Reading the headlines won’t give us enough information, so this is my public service to you all.  🙂

Taiwan under “Democracy Watch” list

The Freedom House report warned that the democratic systems and values are facing alarming pressure in the past year and would attract harder challenges in the coming year, circumstances due to: differential impact on free, partly free and unfree countries of the global financial crisis that erupted in the United States last year.  The surveys point to an erosion in global freedom since 2005 that has become an issue for both the international community as well as Taiwan.

Taiwan placed on democracy watch list 美國自由之家13日在台北遠東國際大飯店,舉行「2009年世界自由度」全球發表會,由自由之家研究部門主任華克()(Christopher Walker)人主持。

Taiwan placed on democracy watch list 美國自由之家13日在台北遠東國際大飯店,舉行「2009年世界自由度」全球發表會,由自由之家研究部門主任華克(中)(Christopher Walker)等人主持。

A look into the international economic fluctuation may be influenced by the “war on terror” launched by the outgoing Reblican, U.S. President, George W. Bush.  During his two term rule and determination for unilateralism, introduced “a deceptive, illegal colonial war in Iraq under the false colours of ‘political freedom’ and flagrant violations of the Geneva conventions and other human rights covenants.”

Even dated back to 2006, it is apparent that the motion to Iraq, signals the beginning of the decline of the US, and rise of China, making Taiwan’s situation more precarious:

The world is in the midst of a monumental process of change that, within the next 10 years or so, could leave the US as only the second largest economy in the world after China and commanding, with the rise of China and India, a steadily contracting share of global output. It will no longer be able to boss the world around in the fashion of the neoconservative dream: its power to do so will be constrained by the power of others, notably China, while it will also find it increasingly difficult to fund the military and diplomatic costs of being the world’s sole superpower. If the US is already under financial pressure from its twin deficits and the ballooning costs of Iraq, then imagine the difficulties it will find itself in within two decades in a very different kind of world.

In short, the invasion of Iraq has stomped to ashes, many a people’s dreams from all sides, along with those of us here in Asia, knowing what a region run by China, will mean for freedom in the East.  The generality in believing that Bush is the cause in tainting values of democracy and freedom, sense that his attention is diverted from fundamental, global and national political, social, environmental and economic problems – combined with militant market fundamentalism.  A fault having dominoed into a red, global financial crisis.

(What is market fundamentalism? It is the exaggerated faith that when markets are left to operate on their own, believing to be capable of solving economic and social problems.)

With the misguided and exaggerated faith, how has it deteriorated global economy?  Bush’s obsession had opened doors for autocratic regional hegemonic powers such as Russia and China, to extend political domination over neighbour countries and crippling their economies.  Bush’s “regime change” effect has followed into Taiwan’s democracy, punishing the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of ex president, Chen Shui-Bian’s assertive defense of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

A protester shouts slogans while marching on Zhongxiao Road towards the Presidential Office for a rally in Taipei August 30, 2008. Demonstrators marking Taiwans President Ma Ying-jeous 100th day in office gathered on Saturday to protest against the governments poor performance on the economy and to demand for more to be done to protect Taiwans sovereignty. REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN)

A protester shouts slogans while marching on Zhongxiao Road towards the Presidential Office for a rally in Taipei August 30, 2008. Demonstrators marking Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou's 100th day in office gathered on Saturday to protest against the government's poor performance on the economy and to demand for more to be done to protect Taiwan's sovereignty. REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN)

What recent events have led to drop in “level”?

Freedom House’s evaluation considered the review of events such as the Wild Strawberry Movement protests; the occurence in Chinese envoy, Chen Yu-Lin; police brutality; and possible errors in the Assembly and Parade Law, currently under investigation, believe to restrict civil liberty.  The growing alarm over political intereference and influence, eroding judicial independence such as with the prosecution and detention of former DPP government officials in the only recent wake of the restoration of KMT party dominance over the island.

Despite the investigation and recent political behaviour, the Freedom House approved the final decision and score of 1 in civil liberties and 2 in political freedom with the title of “free country.”

Who is watching Taiwan?

The Freedom House team indicated that the International Human Rights Group will be closely monitoring Taiwan in the “critical year” of 2009, paying special attention to freedom of the press (or, news freedom), judicial independence, and freedoms of assembly (protest).  The confidence in “self-correcting” mechanisms in democratic society includes institutional checks, balances and “push – back” from civil society.

Freedom House comments that they are in hopes “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 Yin-Jeou’s KMT government to take the voices of civil society and Taiwan citizens seriously.

Annual Freedom House survey

(photo taken in The World Press Photo Exhibition (世界新聞攝影展)) Taiwan's press freedom ranks first in Asia: Annual Freedom House survey

How does the Freedom House rate one, a “Free Country”?

Quoting from a government website:

Certain human rights are fundatmental and the basis for the recognition and emjoyment of all other human beings. Foremost of these is the right to life. If a human being is denied or threatened with denial of right to life, the existence of other rights is meaningless. Any attempts to exclude any category of human beings from the invaluable right to life at the whim of expediency or the more powerful undermines and threatens the respect of life of all peoples.

As affirmed by the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, liberty, justice, and peace int he world are built on the foundation of the recognition of the inherit dignity and of the equally inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Human rights are central to the United States’ foreign policy not only because they are a moral imperative, but also because they are essential to any effort to establish and maintain a democratic, peaceful, stable society.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are among the most important tasks undertaken by the Department of State. These reports allow the United States an opportunity to bear witness, to reassert fundamental principles, and also to examine its own conscience about whether its foreign policy comports with these principles.

The available documented record for Taiwan under “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” is a MUST read if you wish to understand how the events during and after the transition of President Chen to President Ma is taken and affected by world view of the island.  To get a better grasp on the politics and “Taiwanese Consciousness,” I strongly recommend this read, which dates prior to president Chen’s rule:  From Chinese National Identity to Taiwanese Consciousness: An Examination of the Cultural Elements in Taiwan’s Democratization During the Lee Teng-hui Era and Its Legacy,(1988-2004) ”

Ten Economic Freedoms of Taiwan (click image to view)

Ten Economic Freedoms of Taiwan

(click image to view)

The Big Slip, How Economic Freedom is Slipping:

The ‘Wall Street Journal’ and the Heritage Foundation praises Taiwan in their high ranks, but considers labor freedom, a need for improvement.  Taiwan’s economic freedom slipped under the soles of Ma Yin-Jeou (馬英九) and stands behind Hong Kong, an island (handed over back to China in 1997 from the British Empire) standing alone as the world’s freest economy, according to the Index of Economic Freedom.

>Click here to view map of Taiwan and Hong Kong.<

This is what the Index has to say about Taiwan:

“Taiwan has benefited from a well-developed legal and commercial infrastructure and a long tradition of entrepreneurship. These institutional advantages have allowed small and medium-size enterprises to grow, marking their importance as key characteristics of Taiwan’s economy.”

Economies rated much better in advancing human development, reducing poverty, protecting the environment and holding a significantly low percentage in real estate and national debts.  Under the administration of Ma, Taiwan has suffered declines in five out of ten economic freedoms assessed.

The report goes on to mention, “There is room for improvement in Taiwan’s labour freedom.  The labour market remains inflexible, hindering mor robust growth of employment and productivity…” and is on the verge of benefiting from “a well-developed legal and commercial infrastructure and a long tradition of entrepreneurship.”

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou opens the 2008 Taiwan Business Alliance Conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Oct. 6, 2008. The two-day conference has attracted more than 300 business people from China in hopes of increased foreign investment. Taiwanese have invested more than US$100 billion on the Chinese mainland, but Taiwan has long barred reverse investment from China for fear it would give China economic and political control of the island. (www.daylife.com)

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou opens the 2008 Taiwan Business Alliance Conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Oct. 6, 2008. The two-day conference has attracted more than 300 business people from China in hopes of increased foreign investment. Taiwanese have invested more than US$100 billion on the Chinese mainland, but Taiwan has long barred reverse investment from China for fear it would give China economic and political control of the island. (www.daylife.com)

How is Taiwan Ranked Under Investment?

According to information released by U.S.-based Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI)  as of January 14, 2009, Taiwan`s overall investment environment rating dropped from one point to 72, remaining the world’s No. 5BERI believes that Taiwan’s current promotion of 12 construction projects and its developing relations with China, reinvents itself as a country of formable interest in investment.

The island is ranked in the world as No. 3, and Asia’s No. 2 in operations risk, but stands as No. 5  globally and No. 3 in Asia (behind Japan and Singapore) in remittance risk.  The global rank dropped by two notches to 11 due to social unrest resulting from increase inner political conflict between KMT and DPP.

What is Happening Today?

(dated July, 2007) Ho Tsung-hsun, left, head of an environmental advocacy group, speaks with Jason Tsai, a representative of Breeze Center.

(dated July, 2007) Ho Tsung-hsun, left, head of an environmental advocacy group, speaks with Jason Tsai, a representative of Breeze Center.

A 21cm stack of more than 2,000 legislative proposals weighing 15kg is a mirrored stare as to the reason behind delaying review of the proposals until the final few days of this legislative session.

“Suppose the lawmakers take exactly 10 minutes to review each proposal in this pile of papers in front of me. It would take them 19 sleepless days to finish reviewing all of them, but they’re trying to do it within three days” Citizen Congress Watch (CCW) executive director Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) was documented to have said at a news conference in the group’s office on January 14, 2009.

The KMT failed to push through the budget bill despite its vast majority in Legislature, can onlyhave themselves to blame as being the second time in the Legislature’s recent history that the annual central government budget has failed to pass before the winter break. The last occurrence was 2007 during DPP national rule.  At that time, the budget failed to pass due to boycott by the KMT and allies, which hold the majority of the party seats in the Legislature.

An employee of a Taiwan bank that will be exchanging Chinese Yuan currency, shows telltale signs of fake notes in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, June 30, 2008. On Friday, July 4, 2008. Taiwan will receive its first big wave of tourists from the China mainland after an ease in travel restrictions between the rivals.

An employee of a Taiwan bank that will be exchanging Chinese Yuan currency, shows telltale signs of fake notes in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, June 30, 2008. On Friday, July 4, 2008. Taiwan will receive its first big wave of tourists from the China mainland after an ease in travel restrictions between the rivals.

While this bill is in progress and in delay up to next year, there is good news along with your newly acquired vouchers, thanks to sympath from our government.

Credi cards, AIM!  Officially now, your cards will conditionally reduce their interest rates for revolving loans in line with interest rate cuts by the Central Bank of China (CBC) to ease the interest payment burden on credit card and cash card holders, according to a consensus by the Cabinet-level Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC).

Thanks to the series of rate cuts by the CBC in late September, 2008, we are invited to discuss reducing interest reates with the FSC, but no, not for anybody!  It’s like getting to apply for an American Express: it’s is mandatory for the card holder(s) to have made regular repayments for a certain period of time, have no record of delinquency, and comply with the credit policy of issuers.

Don’t hold your breath – it still may not even apply to you, why?  Because banks want your money!  “In principle, it will be up to card issuers themselves to determine the size of rate cuts for outstanding revolving loans.”  Even in reducing the rates, they still linger at I14% – 20% annually at the moment. Hsieh Tien-Jen (謝天仁), chairman of the Consumers’ Foundation, said that as long as the interest rate exceeds 12 percent, it can be deemed an unreasonably high level.

Comparing interst rate loans with card companies, Hsieh found rates charged by Taipei Fubon Bank, Citicorp., Taishin International Bank, Cathay United Bank, Union Bank of Taiwan, and E. Sun Bank hit a high of 20% annually, compared with 14.47% collected by Chinatrust Commercial Bank.
And you thought that vouchers aren’t enough to satisfy.

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~ by Lan on 2008 ThuUTC2009-01-15T13:37:14+00:00. 15.

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