Caring For Specific Groups Amid COVID-19
September 13,2021   By:en.humanrights.cn
Sept.13,2021 -- The COVID-19 epidemic suddenly broke out in Wuhan at the beginning of 2020. To reduce the number of infections, the Wuhan government locked down the whole city in no time, posing an unprecedented challenge for specific groups whose health and safety concerns needed to be addressed. What did the Chinese government do in this regard? And what was the efficacy of related measures? Zhang Wanhong, executive dean of the Institute of Human Rights at Wuhan University and vice chairman of the Hubei Disabled Persons’ Federation, has always kept a watchful eye on the protection of the rights of specific groups during the epidemic.
Zhang Wanhong: For the protection of the rights of specific groups, there are two major legal principles to follow: equal protection, which means they must be treated the same as all other members of the society and be protected with non-discriminatory measures, in addition to the temporary special protection measures. The epidemic broke out so unexpectedly with a devastating impact that everybody had to face great challenges in both production and life. What about specific groups? The impact of the epidemic on them was more severe, as they are naturally vulnerable. Take Wuhan as an example. After the channels of leaving Wuhan were all shut down, the influence on the life of specific groups, for example, the old, people with disabilities, women and children, in Wuhan would be greater than on that of others. The deaf, for instance, live in a world of silence, so it is difficult to convey the information about epidemic prevention and control to them after it is released. Therefore, a special type of skill, such as sign language, is needed for person-to-person communication, thus enabling them to know about the epidemic prevention and control measures and better protect themselves. In the residential community, we arranged for the CPC members and officials, who are responsible for grassroots affairs, to go from door to door to visit people and identify the needs of specific groups. On the one hand, for the elderly people who live alone, their needs for supplies and daily necessities must be understood; and for patients with chronic diseases, their needs for medicines must be determined. On the other hand, children are also a very important specific group. In an environment in which classes were suspended while learning had to be continued, did some children, whose families suffer financial difficulties, have access to the Internet? How could they keep up with the teaching? All their needs had to be identified by visiting them in person so as to get addressed to a certain degree.
Zhang Wanhong: The people-centered anti-epidemic spirit, represented by putting people first and putting people’s lives first, is an outstanding feature we have manifested in our prevention and control efforts. We treat and protect all people equally and never abandon or give up a single life. In some countries, however, elderly and vulnerable patients were not given treatment, or physically strong patients were given priority for the use of some medical resources. No such things have ever existed in China. For example, a 100-year-old patient in Wuhan was successfully cured. As the epidemic prevention and control has become regularized at present, we need to advance relevant measures step by step in an orderly manner to guarantee production and employment. Under such circumstances, we must understand the needs of specific groups. Take the elderly people as an example. We are required to show QR code of health when we go out. In this digital era, how can we help the elderly get accustomed to the informatization-based epidemic prevention and control measures instead of being affected by the digital divide. Measures like this must be paid special attention to in the post-epidemic era or after the epidemic prevention and control has become regularized. We can see that when elderly people are at the airport or port, staff will help them with registering personal information. In light of actual situations and in addition to meeting requirements of epidemic prevention and control, we should attach high importance to the special needs of specific groups.
Zhang Wanhong: In terms of the employment of people with disabilities with which I am familiar, the Law on the Protection of People with Disabilities of the People’s Republic of China and the Regulations on the Employment of People with Disabilities issued in 2007 both stipulate that employers shall give priority to people with disabilities in employment or employ them according to a certain proportion. This is also a measure to protect the employment rights of people with disabilities. We also have similar protection measures in terms of rehabilitation and epidemic prevention for them. It can be seen that the CPC has implemented the correct measures, giving play to our institutional advantages. General Secretary Xi Jinping once said: “People with disabilities are a group faced with particular difficulties, so we need to pay special attention to them and care for them.” It can be seen that with the development of the times and the strengthening of national power, our protection of specific groups has been gradually reinforced in recent years. Currently, our epidemic prevention and control has become a part of our daily lives. We must learn from previous fight against the virus as well as from the experience and lessons accumulated in the whole campaign against the epidemic. There is a saying concerning the protection of the rights of specific groups: Please don’t make decisions  for us without our presence. The English version is “Nothing About Us Without Us.” Now that the epidemic prevention and control has become regularized, we should pay more heed to specific groups and understand their demands. If we were in their shoes, what matters is not what you should give us, but what we need. As the saying goes: Only the wearer knows where the shoes cause pain. We should pay much heed to their special needs and protect their relevant rights. This is part of what we need to do. Additionally, the principle of proportionality is an important tenet in some fields of public law, which means the proposed measures must match their purposes. In other words, measures shall not go beyond their appropriate purposes, nor shall they exert excessive influence upon people’s production and life. They must be carried out in line with the principle of proportionality and the principle of minimum impact.


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