Zhang Yonghe: People of the World Unite to Fight the Pandemic
April 02,2021   By:en.humanrights.cn
Guest of honor: Zhang Yonghe, executive dean of the Human Rights Research Institute of the Southwest University of Political Science & Law
Interviewer: Yang Yang, chinahumanrights.org
Date: January 2021
Speech Outline: What attitude should the government take to life during the pandemic?
What philosophy should the governments of different countries uphold to guarantee the right to life of mankind?
How should we create a global response to the pandemic that aligns with the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind?
April 2,2021 -- chinahumanrights.org: COVID-19 is the gravest global pandemic in the past 100 years. Every country responded in its own way to the sudden and unexpected outbreak. In the hour of dire need, the Chinese government has stood together with its people. As the pandemic still rages across the globe, everyone should join forces and present a global front against it. Today, we are honored to have Professor Zhang Yonghe, executive dean of the Human Rights Research Institute of the Southwest University of Political Science & Law (SWUPL). He will be sharing his thoughts on human rights against the background of COVID-19.
Professor Zhang is a human rights expert of international renown, executive dean of the Human Rights Research Institute of the SWUPL, leader of the Discipline of Human Rights Law, and executive member of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.
chinahumanrights.org: Hello, Professor Zhang.
Zhang Yonghe: Hello, Yang Yang.
chinahumanrights.org: We understand that since the outbreak of the pandemic, you have published a series of articles on the right to life. In these articles, you expounded on the protection of the right to life in the course of the pandemic response. What attitude do you think the government should take to life in its response to the pandemic?
Zhang Yonghe: A country is put to its greatest test when faced with a public health emergency. What is the meaning and value of the government? We would question the necessity of the government if it stood back in the event of an emergency. In the West, people talk about the contractual government, a government based on the social contract. As far as individual citizens are concerned, what mandate should a contractual government be granted, and what responsibilities should it take when it is formed? This is an interesting question to contemplate at the moment. To me, this is as much a practical question as it is a political and philosophical one. Basically, the government now must step forward, lead, and assume its responsibilities.
chinahumanrights.org: What has our country done to guarantee the right to life of its people in the battle against the pandemic?
Zhang Yonghe: As you have mentioned, I wrote an article titled On the Right to Life in which I elaborated specifically on the value of human life. What is the position of the right to life in the national governance system? I would say that the people’s right to life is at the very top of the entire value system of rights. In fact, without the right to life, all other rights would become nothing more than hot air. Only when the right to life is guaranteed can the other rights be realized. In this sense, a person’s right to life serves as the bedrock for other rights. This is why we believe that a person’s right to life should be prioritized and that the government must step forward to recognize and protect it.
When winter comes this year, another outbreak seems to be on the horizon. But our country has drawn last year’s experiences and all localities across China have taken effective response measures to keep the infection at a low level. This is our expectations for the government which I am convinced that the government will meet. I believe that we might have a relapse, but this time it will not be a full-blown outbreak. Why? Because the Chinese government takes the matter seriously and attaches supreme importance to the life of every citizen. What would you say is man’s ultimate goal? Hasn’t it always been to pursue a better and longer life? If the government can deliver on this expectation, it is, I think, a competent and people-centered government.
chinahumanrights.org: Of all the response measures taken by Western countries, what are some of the drawbacks in terms of human rights protection that are worthy of our attention?
Zhang Yonghe: Something interesting is going on in the world today. Take the U.S., the superpower, as an example. People call it the beacon of the world, expecting it to lead the world. But this time the U.S. has set a bad example for many countries that follow it, which has led to a lamentable global response. The COVID death toll in the U.S. has exceeded 400,000. I am not sure how the U.S. government plans to explain this to its people. The fact that the lives of 400,000 people have been written off is so shameful. The government has proved itself to be a complete failure in the fight against the pandemic. The U.S. should humbly seek global cooperation to combat the pandemic. To do so is to be responsible for all people, not just for Americans. We all, Americans included, are part of the human community. 
chinahumanrights.org: This pandemic has reminded us that we all live in an interconnected and interdependent global village with shared future. What philosophy should the governments of different countries adopt to guarantee the right to life of mankind?
Zhang Yonghe: The concept of a community with a shared future for mankind might not have been completely understood when first proposed by China. This pandemic has driven home to us all the validity and substantiality of such an idea. This pandemic is not just a problem for one or a few of us. It is an issue for mankind as a whole. Mankind is an extremely broad concept and is different from other animals or living organisms. Mankind as a race is truly bound together in the global sense. Mankind as a race is bound together in the global sense. We see this world from the perspective of a community created for the benefit of mankind in which everything - our responsibilities, our rights - is included. So, the human race must pull itself together and join hands to face this pandemic together. 
chinahumanrights.org: You have just mentioned a community with a shared future for mankind. How should we create a global cooperative response to the pandemic that aligns with this concept?
Zhang Yonghe: The basis of such cooperation is non-politicization. The pandemic should not be politicized. Cooperation should not be rejected on such grounds as institutional and ideological differences. Politicization is obviously inhumane for it fails to treat mankind as an integral whole and is driven by selfish politics and ideology. Apparently, there seems a tendency towards politicization. I truly hope that we can overcome it. Only in this way, can a global defense against the pandemic be forged. Then, I believe, the pandemic can be controlled. 
chinahumanrights.org: Thank you, Professor Zhang, for being with us today. Thank you very much. 
Zhang Yonghe: The pleasure is all mine. I have discussed this topic many times before, but I enjoy today’s talk the most.
chinahumanrights.org: Thank you.
Zhang Yonghe: Thanks, Yang Yang.
The Spring Festival is coming. Professor Zhang has written a Spring Festival couplet to express his best wishes to all who are fighting the pandemic in every corner of the world: May the spring return with an uplifting sight; may the world be filled with happiness and good fortune. Let’s hope that the spring will come and disperse the dark clouds of COVID.


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