Hong Kong fell 12 places on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) annual democracy index for 2020 released on Wednesday – its status was downgraded from “flawed democracy” to “hybrid regime.” It now ranks 87th in the world, more than ten positions below both Singapore and Thailand.

The report, titled Democracy in sickness and in health? identified a “crackdown by the authorities on dissent” as a driving factor in Hong Kong’s downgrade.

freedom hong kong
File photo: AFP.

Hong Kong saw the most dramatic downgrade in the index bar Myanmar, which dropped 13 positions from its previous ranking to 135.

Following the introduction of the Beijing-imposed national security law last June, a dozen democrats were barred from running for the legislative races — which were later postponed for a year, with authorities citing pandemic concerns.

Later in 2020, Hong Kong’s legislature emptied of its entire opposition camp after four democratically-elected lawmakers were abruptly ousted after being deemed to have violated their oaths of loyalty to the government, and their colleagues collectively resigned in protest.

“Hybrid regimes” bear the hallmarks of both authoritarian and democratic systems and are one classification above “authoritarian regime.” The report classified 35 administrations as “hybrid regimes” and 57 as “authoritarian regimes.”

Taiwan gains ‘full democracy’ status

Meanwhile, Taiwan rose by 20 positions to 11th place, gaining “full democracy” status for the first time ever.

“The January 2020 national elections demonstrated the resilience of Taiwan’s democracy, at a time when electoral processes, parliamentary oversight and civil liberties have been backsliding globally,” a press statement read.

Japan and South Korea were restored to the top-tier rank for the first time since 2014. 23 countries in total qualified as “full democracies”.

2020, however, saw an overall decrease in Asian and Australasian region’s average score which mainly stemmed from “an unprecedented withdrawal of personal freedoms in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” a press statement read.

The index rating system is based on the average points given to 60 “democracy indicators” split into five categories, including the functioning of electoral process and government, political participation and culture, and civil liberties. It considers 167 countries and states, providing a “snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide.”

The EIU is the Economist Groups commercial arm specialising in policy and business research and analysis.

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Rhoda kwan

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.