Gui Minhai and Freedom of Expression

Dec. 16, 2019 Weekly Graphs

The decision by the Swedish PEN to award Hong Kong activist Gui Minhai the Tucholsky prize for persecuted writers has prompted strong condemnation from the Chinese government. The award is associated with freedom of speech and symbolically granted to the writers whose right to freedom of speech is violated. This week we use the Interactive Map Tool to illustrate freedom of expression in 2018 for all countries of the world.

Named after German writer Kurt Tucholsky, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the Tucholsky prize is given by the Swedish unit of the international free speech organization PEN once a year to a writer who is persecuted, threatened, imprisoned, or exiled. Gui Minhai is a Chinese-born Swedish citizen. After earning a Ph.D. at the University of Gothenburg in the 1990s, Gui moved to Hong Kong, where he founded several publishing companies that became known for publishing books critical of the Chinese government. In 2015, Gui disappeared while on vacation in Thailand. Later, Chinese officials admitted that he was detained on the conviction of a serious crime. As of today, Gui continues to be detained in mainland China. 

The right to freedom of opinion and expression is an inalienable right according to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The V-Dem Freedom of Expression Index estimates the extent to which the government respects press and media freedom, the freedom of ordinary people to discuss political matters at home and in the public sphere, as well as the freedom of academic and cultural expression. The scale ranges from zero (light blue) to one (darker blue), with higher values representing a higher level of freedom of expression. 

As of 2018, people living in North America, some South American states, Nordic and Western European countries, Mongolia, Senegal, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, enjoy freedom of expression to a great extent. On the other hand, China, South Sudan, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan have a rather low level of this freedom. 


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