15th Forum 2000: “Asia Panel: The Rule of Law in Asia”

Prague, Czech Republic

It gives me great pleasure to open this panel discussion on Asia. This is the third Asian panel to be held since it was added to the Forum agenda in 2009, and its continuation shows the world’s rising interest toward Asia.

The theme for this year is “The Rule of Law in Asia.” But engaging in sweeping discussions about Asia is extremely difficult. Asia is a region of highly diverse societies, cultures and religions; and the levels of economic development vary widely from country to country.

In Asia, we see countries that have achieved the status of an economic powerhouse, under a one-party rule. In these states, while on the one hand, dramatic economic development is being achieved, on the other hand, basic rights such as civil and political rights are not guaranteed; those who go against the ruling party may be subjected to suppression of their human rights.

There are also countries where democracy and the rule of law have been nominally put in place, but power has remained in the hands of limited individuals with vested interests. In such circumstances, it is difficult to ensure that the will of the people is duly reflected in the political and economic system. Corruption and inequality are rampant.

By contrast, in mature democracies, on the surface it may seem that under the rule of law the people are exercising freedom of choice in an orderly society. But in reality, the laws may be so detailed and so rigid that the people’s diversity and range of choices are constricted – making the people “slaves” to their legal systems.

Today, ongoing developments in information technology and globalization are making the Asian and non-Asian countries ever more closely connected. As a result, the issue of the rule of law in Asia is no longer an issue that concerns only the Asian region.

Over the past 15 years, the Forum 2000 Conferences have probed deep into many different issues through dialogue and discussions by the participants.

It is my personal hope that the panel members here today, as well as everyone attending as observers, will bring your vast experience and abundant knowledge to address the vital issues before us.