South Korea and other Asian countries made some progress in enhancing human rights last year.
Amnesty International (AI) said in its 1999 annual report that there were some positive developments in Asia although serious human rights problems persisted across the region.
But it warned that the human rights situation was aggravated in some Asian countries due to financial turmoil and the economic crisis.
AI said that more than 150 political prisoners, including long-term prisoners of conscience, were released in two presidential amnesties in South Korea in 1998.
In Indonesia and East Timor, at least 179 political prisoners were released, including three seriously ill men who had been in prison since 1965, the international human rights group said.
It added that long-time prisoners of conscience were also among over 7,000 prisoners released in two amnesties in Vietnam.
Other positive developments included legal and institutional reforms in Indonesia as it ratified the U.N. Convention against Torture and approved new laws covering elections and the formation of political parties.
According to the AI report, China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), while human rights protection in Taiwan was strengthened as its revised code of criminal procedure came into effect.
The group said Nepal reinforced its opposition to the death penalty by signing the ICCPR's Second Optional Protocol.
``Yet across Asia, human rights continued to be abused, particularly as a result of the deepening economic crisis,'' AI said in the report.
It said hundreds of trade unionists were detained in South Korea following public protests and strikes over widespread job losses.
In Thailand, Burmese asylum-seekers and refugees were arrested and detained for ``illegal immigrants'' as the country struggled with its economic crisis.
Four university students were unlawfully killed by the military in Jakarta, Indonesia, as disquiet over former President Suharto's reelection and the country's worsening economic crisis culminated in two days' rioting, during which more than 1,000 people died. …