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Coronavirus Pandemic: Human rights conference underway in Chongqing
May 11,2020   By:CGTN
May 11,2020 -- Human rights protection is one element that has gotten lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and various restrictions have had an unseen effect on human rights. A conference organized by Southwest University of Political Science and Law aims to address these issues. Wei Lynn Tang files this report.
 
The global academic community descends on Southwestern China to focus on one of the lesser known dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic: human rights protection. Many local and foreign guests have joined in via video calls.
 
PROFESSOR ZHANG YONGHE Executive Dean, Human Rights Research Institute Southwest University of Political Science and Law "This is the first time that people from around the world are facing a common problem. And the one key message that I'd like people to take away is: We should respect life. All human lives are equal - no one is superior nor inferior to anyone. When a society is able to prioritize the rights and lives of weaker, vulnerable groups, to treat them as equals, then that is a civilized society."
 
In an April 2020 report, the United Nations said the public health crisis is fast becoming an economic and social crisis, as well as a protection and human rights crisis rolled into one. Specifically, the report said extensive lockdowns have, in the process, restricted the freedom to enjoy many other human rights. This can unknowingly affect people's access to healthcare, food, water and sanitation, work, education and leisure.
 
PROFESSOR PETER J. PEVERELLI Vrije University Amsterdam "The only measure that you can take is: if the vast majority of the population is reasonably satisfied with the human rights situation in their own environment, you'll have to conclude academically that the local authorities are doing well in this respect, even the situation in one country can be very different in another country or region in the world."
 
Professor Peverelli, who studied Chinese language and culture, says the term "life" needs to first be defined.
 
PROFESSOR PETER J. PEVERELLI Vrije University Amsterdam "I believe when Chinese talk about SHENGMING it's about the physical life, and Chinese are very eager to continue human life to keep breeding and stay healthy. While in Europe, it includes things like liveable environments, the fact that I can go out to meet my friends. So any measure to deal with calamities like a new disease, as long as it's embedded in local culture, should not be explained in terms of which is better or more superior."
 
PROFESSOR ZHANG YONGHE Executive Dean, Human Rights Research Institute Southwest University of Political Science and Law "In facing the pandemic, China and Western countries should have an open attitude. Instead of pinpointing who has done better or worse, we should instead fight the virus together. We should regard things calmly, and not bring personal gains to the table."
 
Something echoed by many around the world. For what other ways are there to ensure that the global economy and international travel get back on track? WLT, CGTN, Chongqing.
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