Hong Kong’s global human freedom ranking has plummeted to 46th place, according to a recent study by the Fraser Institute.
“Freedom has suffered a precipitous decline in Hong Kong, but its tragic descent into oppression provides important lessons about the value of freedom,” report co-author Fred McMahon, a Fraser Institute resident fellow and holder of the Dr. Michael A. Walker Chair in Economic Freedom, said in a Dec. 19 press release.
Hong Kong, a former British colony designated as one of China’s special administrative regions since its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, initially enjoyed relative autonomy, featuring separate legal and administrative systems compared to the rest of the People’s Republic of China. However, in recent years, Beijing has tightened its control, notably marked by the introduction of the Hong Kong National Security Law in June 2020.
The law was enacted amid a massive pro-democracy movement that began in 2019. It established specific crimes of secession, subversion of state power, and collusion with foreign entities, widely regarded as a means to curb both free speech and promotion of democracy in Hong Kong. Since its enactment, authorities have closed down outspoken media outlets and arrested hundreds of pro-democracy figures.
“Suppression in Hong Kong continues to ramp up as the jailing of journalists and pro-freedom advocates grows, with arrest warrants issued for exiled activists to quash even overseas dissent,” report co-author Ian Vásquez, Cato Institute vice-president for international studies and director of its Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, said in the press release.
MPs unanimously adopted a motion on Dec. 12 calling for the release of Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy campaigner and founder of the newspaper Apply Daily. Mr. Lai, 76, went on trial in Hong Kong on Dec. 18, with his trial expected to last 80 days. He is accused of “collusion” with foreign forces and participating in a conspiracy to publish “seditious” publications under the national security law and a British colonial-era sedition law. Apple Daily became defunct in June 2021 under the Hong Kong National Security Law.
In this year’s freedom ranking, the top positions are secured by Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, and a tie between Estonia and Sweden for 5th place. The five least-free countries, in descending order, are Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria.
Meanwhile, Canada secured the 13th place in the global freedom ranking. The report also highlighted notable worldwide rankings for other countries, with Taiwan at 12th place, Japan at 16th, the United Kingdom and the United States tied at 17th, Germany at 21st, South Korea at 28th, France at 39th, Ukraine at 83rd, Mexico at 95th, and India at 109th.
The report highlighted that residents in freer jurisdictions tend to be more prosperous than those in less-free jurisdictions. For instance, the average per-capita income for the top quartile of jurisdictions on the index was US$47,421, compared to US$14,157 for the least-free quartile in 2021.
“Human freedom increases prosperity and human well-being and has powered the growth of some of the most remarkable jurisdictions in the world, including Hong Kong,” Mr. McMahon said.
Other co-authors of the report are Ryan Murphy, a research associate professor at the Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom at Southern Methodist University, and Guillermina Sutter Schneider, a data scientist and research and project manager at the Cato Institute.