iChongqing Title

The Right to Life and Health Must Guide Responses to COVID-19

By Gaowei ZhangICHONGQING|Jun 09,2021

Chongqing- The 2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights was concluded on 8th June. Participants including the delegates from the WHO, the OHCHR, political leaders, experts, and scholars from more than 20 European countries in the field of human rights, legal, literary, art and media, four parallel sessions are extended as sub-topics to discuss the theme “COVID-19 Pandemic and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”.

Session Ⅰ: Challenges Brought by the Covid-19 Pandemic to the Protection of the Right to Life and Health and the Responses of Various Countries (iChongqing/Wang Xiaoyan)

China’s ‘zero cases’ strategy

As foreign journalists in China, Mr. Julien Buffet from France, and Mr. Alvaro Lago Sanchez from Spain, shared their experiences in China during the Covid-19.

Julien Buffet is a French Editor in China Today Magazine, he witnessed the outbreak and the slowing down of the pandemic, he believes that the success of the fight against the epidemic can be attributed to an integrated system, “China’s ‘zero cases’ strategy is a successful combination of epidemic prevention and control and the modestly lifting of the blockade”, he and his French friend in Wuhan, China admired the rapid implementation of the measures and policies, “the determined effort by one country to fight the virus can make a difference to others”, Julien said in the seminar. He also noted that the contradiction between public health and human rights is not easy to resolve, such as anti-mask protests and other extreme actions in the US and Europe, “health experts are also at war with each other over medical methods, all of these tend to make the pandemic worse”.

The Neighborhood Committees

Alvaro Lago, who works at People´s Daily Online, was interested in the Neighborhood Committees(居委会): “Before the pandemic, I didn’t even know these neighborhood organizations existed. But they have been around for a long time, and have played a very important role in the past”. He was informed that the Neighborhood Committees enforced the rules, and in many places limited movement to one person per household every two to three days to buy necessities. If a family was suspected of being exposed to the virus, it would be quarantined while testing and contact tracing was conducted. “Although the government formulated personal behavioral regulations for people to prevent the epidemic, the success of the fight against the epidemic largely depended on the enthusiasm of grassroots organizations such as Neighborhood Committees”. He added. “I was very lucky not to have seen any case of COVID-19 near my house, but I do know that in other neighborhoods, these ‘protectors’ even bought food, medicine and monitored the health status of residents who had been infected or their close contacts, something unimaginable in other countries.”

As an extension of the community topic, Mr. Wang Wei, Ph.D. Candidate of Human Rights Institute of Southwest University of Political Science and Law discussed “Urban Community Governance and Human Rights Protection under the Prevention and Control of Covid-19 Pandemic”. Wang concluded: “As the undertaker of some social functions and the bearer of major social forces and resources, the community can just meet the needs of the government, which shows that the community has great potential in crisis management, and thus plays an important role in public health emergencies. China’s market economic system is gradually improving, and the socialized management aimed to build a ‘small government ‚ big society’ pattern, the community will also play an increasingly important role in the management of the whole society.  

Ms. Zhu Jingfang, a researcher of the China NGO Network for International Exchanges, focused on the cooperation of Chinese non-governmental organizations in anti-epidemic and their efforts to promote the protection of the right to life and health. From March 2020, China NGO Network for International Exchanges has cooperated with more than 60 social organizations, enterprises, and non-governmental organizations, carried out more than 100 international anti-epidemic cooperation projects in more than 60 countries, donated supplies worth RMB 200 million. Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Pakistan, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and many other African countries are included, they also held 200 online exchange seminars, sent volunteers to assist the prevention and control, which has been widely appreciated and highly appraised by these countries.   

Radio plays a role

Ms. Guo Miao, and Ms. Hao Jing, from Northwest University of Political Science and Law, stated their academic research from a special view, the loudspeakers of rural broadcasting. Radio is a mass communication tool, during the pandemic, it has regained its vitality and highlighted its value. The COVID-19 outbreak occurred during the Chinese New Year, which caused social panic, and the vast number of people who had returned to their hometown needed the latest prevention information. In the special period of travel restrictions, home quarantine, loudspeakers become an excellent tool of media. The loudspeakers not only delivered the information and policy to the individual, prevented rumors, but also guided the social public opinion, avoided other social risks. It ensured the political communication function, the community-level governance, and enhanced the capacity and modernization of social governance.

Session Ⅱ: Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health of Specific Groups in Covid-19 Pandemic (iChongqing/Wang Xiaoyan)

Ms. C.B. Shiryaeva, Professor of Moscow State Normal University, discussed the policy support for the right to life and health of the poor in Russia during the pandemic, the data she cited indicated that social policy support covered 65 percent of the country’s population, such as families with many children, single mothers, and retirees, but 16 percent of the poor were not covered yet.

Also from Russia, Luparev Evgeniy Borisovicsh, Professor of Kuban State University, did his research based on a statistical analysis of 260 students and 40 law school faculty, affirmed that the development of basic legal science should be prioritized over applied science, rather than applied science as the legal basis for unconventional public affairs, it is shown that there is no balance standard between administrative restrictions and individual rights of citizens during the epidemic period in legal theory.

Ms. Cao Yan, Professor of Northwest University of Political Science and Law, focused on the temporary workers’ community in the pandemic. Temporary labor has not been fully incorporated into the regulation system of China’s labor law, the rights of these workers are difficult to be effectively protected. As an important type of flexible employment, the regulation of temporary work depends on the flexible reform of labor law. Collective negotiation is an effective measure to regulate temporary workers.

Some comparative studies have also shown surprising results. Gong Xianghe, Professor of Southeast University and his Ph.D. Candidate Gao Yike, did a comparative analysis of the guarantee of the right to life between Chinese and British elderly in the Covid-19 pandemic. Britain proposed the “herd immunity” strategy, resulting in a large number of people infected and died, which in turn violated the right to liberty and caused a human rights crisis, according to European nationals’ statistics, nearly half of COVID-19 deaths in Europe came from nursing homes, accounting for between 42 and 57 percent of all deaths. “The British political system emphasizes absolute freedom and individual freedom, the government focuses on the protection of individual rights, while at the same time requires individuals to be responsible for themselves. Politicians are elected by universal suffrage, and the voters are responsible for their wrong decisions, this is a government with limited liability”, the authors criticized.

Live video session of the seminar (iChongqing/Mikkel Larsen)

The China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights was established in 2015, the previous seminars discussed the protection of the rights of children, the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, the diversity of civilizations, and the protection of human rights, and the comparison of the values of human rights between the East and the West, respectively. The 2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights was organized by the Human Rights Institute at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law and the Chongqing Center for Equal Social Development.

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