Beijing threat as HK top in freedoms

02-Dec-2016 Intellasia | The Standard | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong is in danger of losing its top rank as the “freest” jurisdiction in the world in the near future as it has no democracy, international think tanks say.

Their warning comes even as the SAR retained the No 1 spot for the seventh time since 2008.

The Human Freedom Index 2016 was released on Tuesday by Fraser Institute, an independent Canada-based research organisation, and other global public policy think tanks, showing the SAR at the top of the heap, beating 158 other countries and jurisdictions. Hong Kong is the only jurisdiction in Asia that made it to the top 10 of the rankings, and that is mainly on account of its economic freedom.

Following close behind were Switzerland in second place and New Zealand on third.

By contrast, the mainland was deemed one of the “backsliders” as it fell four spots to 141st from its 2013 ranking.

“Given the link between freedom and democracy, Hong Kong’s top ranking in our index may be somewhat unexpected,” said the institute, which described the SAR as an “outlier” in this regard.

It said that even though Hong Kong “has never experienced democracy,” the city has long enjoyed high levels of economic freedom, personal liberty and income due to its “close adherence to the policies and institutions it inherited from the British,” which include the rule of law.

However, it doubted how much longer the city will continue to claim the top position in its index.

“Clearly, the pro-democracy protests [in 2014 in Hong Kong] represent a political agenda not acceptable to Beijing, and are a reaction to interference and perceived interference by mainland China in Hong Kong’s policies and institutions, including infringements on freedom of the press and the independence of the legal system,” it said. “As the political future of Hong Kong plays out, we would not be surprised if we see a decline in its freedom ratings.”

“If China encroaches on its one country, two systems relationship with Hong Kong, we can expect Hong Kong’s ranking to drop,” warned study editor, Fred McMahon, the institute’s Dr Michael Walker research chair in economic freedom.

The authors of the study also noted a “lessening of freedom” in the mainland, which got no points at all for freedom of movement, association and same-sex relationships.

“[President] Xi Jinping’s government has suppressed the little freedom the media had and has arrested thousands of dissidents, lawyers, and journalists The effects were already evident in 2014.”

The jurisdictions’ performance was measured using 76 indicators across 12 primary factors, including rule of law, security and safety, expression, and access to sound money.


Category: Hong Kong

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