Asia gets mixed marks amid ‘global rule of law recession’

Alex Willemyns for Radio Free Asia
2022.10.26
Washington
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Asia gets mixed marks amid ‘global rule of law recession’ Police use tape to control crowds in Hong Kong near the venue where people have traditionally gathered to mourn victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, June 4, 2022.
AFP

South Korea has overtaken Hong Kong in terms of adherence to the rule of law, according to a Washington-based watchdog report, and now falls just short of Asia’s best-ranked jurisdictions, Japan and Singapore, but far ahead of China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Myanmar and Cambodia, meanwhile, remain mired in the bottom 10 of 140 countries. Cambodia leads of only last-place Venezuela amid what the report’s authors call a “global rule of law recession.”

“Globally, 4.4 billion people live in countries where rule of law has declined over the past year,” the World Justice Project said in its 2022 Rule of Law Index. It notes that “adherence to the rule of law fell in 61 percent of countries,” for a fifth-straight year of global decline.

The index is built using surveys completed by more than 150,000 people, including experts and regular citizens, the group said. The surveys measure eight factors – constraints on government power, corruption, open government, rights, order and security, regulatory environment, civil justice and criminal justice.

For the second-straight year, Denmark and Norway topped the index with scores of 90 and 89 out of a possible 100, followed by Finland (87) and Sweden (86) who traded places since last year, and the Netherlands, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Germany (all 83).

In Asia, Japan (79) and Singapore (78) top the index, ranking 16 and 17, with South Korea (73), ranking 19 and ahead of Hong Kong (73) in 22nd place.

The next highest regional score is Malaysia (57), followed by Mongolia (54), Indonesia (53), Thailand (50), Vietnam (49), China and the Philippines (both 47), and Bangladesh (39).

Languishing in the bottom 10 is ninth-worst Myanmar (36) and Cambodia (31), which ranks ahead of only last-place Venezuela (26).

The report notes the score decreased in Myanmar by 7.7 percent since last year, as well as by 2.8 percent in Hong Kong, 2 percent in Cambodia and less than 1 percent in China. Vietnam, it notes, was among a minority to improve, having increased its score by less than 1 percent since 2021.

While the speed of declines has slowed since the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise of authoritarianism and political violence means rule of law “has continued to crumble,” Alejandro Ponce, chief research officer at the World Justice Project, said in the report.

“Together, these circumstances reflect the weakening of institutional mechanisms needed to uphold accountability, to ensure the just enforcement of laws and to protect human rights,” Ponce said, calling for leaders to do more “to prevent the arbitrary exercise of power.” 

This story was reported by Radio Free Asia, an online news affiliate of BenarNews. 

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