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Human Rights Protection and Global Action under the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic— Overview of “2021· China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights”
May 08,2022   By:CSHRS
Human Rights Protection and Global Action under the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic 
 
— Overview of “2021· China-europe Seminar on Human Rights” 
 
ZHAnG Qile
 
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest ever infectious disease facing mankind. It challenges national governance capabilities and international patterns. On June 8, 2021, the “2021 China-europe Seminar on Human Rights” was held in Chongqing, China. Its theme was “COVID-19 Pandemic and the Protection of the Right to Life and Health,” which focused on five topics: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the protection of the rights to life and health, the response of countries against the pandemic, the protection of the right to life and health of specific groups during the pandemic response, the national responsibility for the protection of the right to life and health in the public health crisis, and global cooperation in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference reached two consensuses: First, in the face of the pandemic, countries must take responsibility for the people and protect the people’s right to life and health; second, an effective international mechanism for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic must be bioethics. The theoretical basis of informed consent is human dignity, the core value of established as soon as possible. 
 
Keywords: the right to life and health . the global fight against the covid-19 pandemic . specific groups . national responsibility . global cooperation 
 
The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest ever infectious disease facing mankind. The global public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the gravest mankind has faced and it has been exacerbated by being intertwined with the world’s pre-existing risks, making the response to the pandemic more than a public health concern. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infects individuals but poses great challenges to governance capabilites of countries. The virus has spread rapidly across the world and is constantly mutating, significantly impacting the evolution of the current world economy and the international landscape. What trade-offs have to be made between individualrights and obligations in the context of a pandemic? What are the obligations of a country to safeguard human rights in such a context? How should countries cooperate in the battle against the pandemic worldwide? These are real and urgent issues facing mankind today. 
 
On June 8, 2021, the “2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights” was held in Chongqing, China. The event was sponsored by the China Society for Human Rights Studies and Cina in Italia magazine and organized by the Human Rights Institute of Southwest University of Political Science and Law and the Chongqing Center for Equal Social Development,with participating venues set up in Chongqing, China and Rome, Italy. Representatives from international organizations such as the World Health Organization and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, together with over 180 participants from home and abroad participated, including political figures from nearly 20 European countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands and Russia, experts and scholars in the field of human rights, as well as businesspeople, artists, legal professionals, and the media, joined the seminar both online and offline. 
 
Ⅰ. the Protection of the Right to Life and Health in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic 
 
Due to its high transmissibility, COVID-19 has spread rapidly across the world, causing social, economic, political, and diplomatic crises. It has posed a serious threat to mankind and the international community. In today’s world of plural and pluralist civilizations, different countries have adopted different measures to combat the pandemic based on different political and economic patterns and values. The first focus of this seminar was the impact COVID-19 pandemic was having on the protection of rights to life and health as well as the response of countries against the pandemic. 
 
A. China’s Experience in Response to COVID-19 
 
The concept of “human rights” is characterized by a combination of universality and specificity: “human rights” are the only universally recognized value system in the world. This is referred to as the universality of “human rights”; but at every stage of their development, they are based on the resolution of the main contradictions of society, which is the specificity of human rights. Therefore, it is not possible to separate “human rights” from the empirical world while evaluating their standards. And it is impossible to apply the historical perspective and national conditions of one country to others. Each country has taken appropriate prevention and control measures against COVID-19 in accordance with its own circumstances. Professor Chang Jian of Nankai University has clarified the characteristics of risk related to public health emergencies, arguing: “In the face of unknown risks of public health emergencies, due to the lack of knowledge and probabilistic information about the risks, it is not possible to simply adopt a ‘forward-looking’ decision-making model based on relatively certain information. A ‘situational’ decision-making model then needs to be adopted.”1. The COVID-19 pandemic is an “unknown public health emergency.” Due to the high degree of uncertainty in predicting the potential damage, the resources required to take and the effectiveness of various measures, one cannot adopt a “forward-looking” decision-making model based on relatively certain risk information. Instead, a “situational” decision-making model has to be employed. 
 
In fact, national policymaking and its practical effects worldwide have shown that compared with the situational decision-making model which can be adjusted based on the current conditions and cognitive development, the precautionary model of decision-making can more effectively reduce risks related to decision-making. In countries such as China, Japan, and Singapore, the initial outbreak of the pandemic was severe, but there was no serious rebound afterwards. Their decision-making models have been based on the value principle of prioritizing people’s lives and health and follow a decision-making strategy of moderate tightening in the early stages, the timely adjustment in the middle stages, and precise policy implementation in the later stages. But this kind of “tightening before adjusting” prevention and control strategy also has its limits. It needs to consider factors such as the level of tolerance of the maximum possible damage caused by the risk, the support of realistic conditions for risk prevention and control, as well as the costs and benefits of risk prevention and control. When dealing with unknown risks of public health emergencies, a precautionary model for decision-making can help to improve the rationality of decision-making and reduce the damage caused by poor decisions. 
 
Along with the advancement of modernity, the risks of modernity are also brewing and arising. And this has brought about global risks, which in a sense have become a characteristic of modern society. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic can undoubtedly serve as a typical illustration of the crisis of modernity in the context of globalization. Professor Qian Jinyu from Northwestern University of Political Science and Law shared China’s ideologies and experience on the topic of the prevention and control of COVID-19 and national governance innovation.
 
The prevention and control of COVID-19 is not only a test of a country’s level of social governance and its capability to govern but also a test of its political philosophy. So, what should a state do first and foremost in this situation? For China, a country that is progressing its fifth modernization, the fundamental path to deal with the risks of modernity is to manifest the Communist Party of China’s people-centered governing philosophy, which emphasizes that people’s well-being is the greatest human right and that people’s lives and health and safety are paramount. At the same time, in promoting the modernization of national governance, China also has placed great emphasis on shaping a joint prevention and control mechanism for COVID-19 worldwide in the context of a community with a shared future for human beings and has been opposing any hegemonic practices and unilateralism in the process of COVID-19 prevention and control. 
 
The Chinese government has much experience to share with other countries in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Li Yunlong,professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee (China National School of Administration) spoke about China’s contribution to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. He argued that due to its unique situation, China is at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic and has provided much valuable experience to the international community.
 
First, China has provided the international community with the most up-todate and timely information about COVID-19. Since China was the first to identify confirmed cases of COVID-19 and thus wage a fight against the virus, it was the first to acquire knowledge of the virus and COVID-19. Then China’s timely provision of this knowledge to the international community has been important in the subsequent global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, China has provided the international community with experience in the prevention and control of the pandemic. As China entered the fight without any knowledge of the virus, it had to navigate its way through the darkness, and the success of China’s subsequent fight against the pandemic has proved the value of its experiences, such as the establishment of temporary cabin hospitals, the isolation of patients with mild symptoms from patients in severe or critical conditions, and the implementation of lockdown to interrupt the transmission chains of the virus in the absence of a specific treatment for the COVID-19. These have all been proved effective and successful. Third, China has provided supplies to countries worldwide to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the virus was brought under control in China, the Chinese leadership took advantage of the country being “the world’s factory” to supply large quantities of pandemic prevention supplies to the world, which has strongly supported the global fight against the pandemic. These contributions have demonstrated the strong governance capacity of the Chinese government and it shouldering its international responsibilities as a major country. 
 
Participants from relevant sectors also shared China’s practical measuresin response to the outbreak. Judge Li Xiao from the Supreme People’s Court of China shared some of the initiatives taken by the judiciary to strengthen judicial protection of human rights amid the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. First, cases involving a risk to others, such as deliberately concealing symptoms of infection and manufacturing counterfeit and shoddy drugs, need to be severely punished in accordance with the law, so that all the people’s rights can be safeguarded; second, legal protection for the safety and security of medical personnel has been strengthened, and violent crimes, physical and verbal intimidation, as well as slander of medical personnel, are severely punished, which guarantees the personality rights of medical workers at the judicial level; third, problems encountered in resuming work and production are to be resolved through legal channels, so as to safeguard the people’s right to development. In addition, the Supreme People’s Court of China has also improved its way of working in response to the pandemic and has been doing its utmost to protect the people’s litigation rights4. Mr. Fu Changliang, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, introduced how the Ministry of Civil Affairs had been putting into practice the peoplecentered development ideology during the pandemic, based on the new development stage, consolidated and expanded the effectiveness of the pandemic prevention and control measures, strengthened the protection of groups in need affected by the pandemic, reformed and improved the basic livelihood protection system, accelerated the formation of a new pattern of social governance at the grassroots level, continuously improved the level of basic social services, promoted the modernization of the civil affairs governance system and governance capacity, and been continuously contributing to the protection of the people’s right to survival, health and development.5 Ms. Zhu Jingfang from China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE) introduced the joint civil action against the pandemic launched by CNIE under the framework of the “Silk Road One Family” initiative, through donations of supplies, experience sharing, and the dispatching of volunteers to major countries in need along the “Belt and Road” and other friendly countries severely affected by the pandemic. This has contributed to the prevention and control of pandemics with China’s civil wisdom and power and has contributed to the protection of people’s right to life and health in developing countries. This also reflects the power of China’s civil society organizations to participate in global public governance.
 
From the point of view of government departments, the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic not only demonstrates the joint efforts of all departments but also shows the capacity of a country to govern and mobilize its people. 
 
B. Different National Strategies to Contain the COVID-19 
 
Some participants from other countries also shared their country’s experience in containing the pandemic. Canadian journalist Julian Buffay compared the prevention and control policies of various countries during the pandemic. He found that countries adopting quarantine measures to contain the pandemic, such as China, Mongolia, and Australia, have been able to effectively break the chain of COVID-19 transmission and reduce community transmission. He said he is very grateful to China for providing such an effective experience in containing the pandemic and hopes that all governments will shoulder the responsibility as the Chinese government has.7 Mr. Emiliano Minuzzi, Member of Parliament for the Regional Government of Lazio, Italy, and member of the Regional Government Health Committee spoke about the measures taken by the Regional Government of Lazio to safeguard the health of its citizens during the pandemic. In the face of the sudden outbreak, the hospitals of Lazio transformed many departments into intensive care units, while the government has done its best to track cases. Following the successful development of COVID-19 vaccines, Italy also has prioritized special groups such as the elderly for access to COVID-19 vaccines. Mr. Emiliano Minuzzi also called for the need to strengthen international cooperation in the future battle against the virus8
 
The speeches of the foreign delegates have undoubtedly provided us with valuable perspectives on comparative research, in which we can better test theories, as practice is the sole criterion of truth. 
 
The different prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic in various countries also reflect the choices made by each country in the vast value system of human rights. According to Professor Wang Xigen from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic has proved the correctness of China’s human rights philosophy, which is demonstrated by the fact that China has correctly developed its human rights philosophy in four aspects: the first aspect is the transformation of the concept of the right to life, from negative human rights to positive human rights; the second is the transformation of the principles of human rights, achieving the fundamental transformation from individual freedom to the idea of life first; the third is the transformation of the subject of human rights, achieving a fundamental shift from the supremacy of the individual to the supremacy of the people; the fourth is the transformation of the value orientation of human rights, achieving a shift from freedom of life to equality of life. 
 
The transformation of China’s human rights philosophy is consistent with the people-centered development ideology that the Chinese Communist Party has always held, and the success of China’s fight against the epidemic is proof of the correctness of the China path. 
 
Mr. Li Junru, Vice President of the National Council of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, spoke about the progress of human rights protection in China from a macro-historical perspective. He pointed out that, along with the continuous advancement of human rights protection in China, the cause of human rights in China has ushered in a new era of meeting the needs of the people for a better life.
 
According to the report of the 19th CPC National Congress, as socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. Therefore, the goal of China’s human rights cause at this stage is to realize the people’s aspiration for a better life. The human rights cause in China has shifted from the stage of “whether there is the existence of human rights” to “whether human rights are protected well.” And efforts to achieve a better life should be made in three dimensions: first, the strategic objectives, including education, employment, income, social security, health care, and living environment; second, the basic guarantees, mainly democracy, rule of law, equity, justice as well as safety and security; and third, the areas covered, including full development between regions and between urban and rural areas. A human rights system with these three dimensions is an all-around human rights system that puts the right to survival and development at the forefront. 
 
II. Challenges and Consensus in the International Fight Against the Pandemic 
 
Due to different national conditions, the measures taken by countries to combat the pandemic were different in the early stages. But such differences have become an excuse for some countries to criticize other countries’ measures, thus posing a serious challenge to the global fight against the pandemic. The second key concern of this seminar was how to build an international consensus to promote joint efforts to contain the pandemic. 
 
A. Challenges for Global Combat Against the Pandemic 
 
Ms. Wang Xinyi from Central South University talked about the justification for global sharing and equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines. She argued that behind major public crises, the willingness of sharing and equitable distribution is constrained by the supremacy of national interests, and the failure of the International Health Regulations which causes a lack of “regulation,” can lead to a “tragedy of the commons” in the distribution of vaccines. Therefore, to justify the global sharing and equitable distribution of vaccines requires a justification of the application of global justice theories based on the established theories.10 
 
Contemporary cosmopolitanism, with universal love as its core concept, advocates economic assistance to developing countries from the perspective of international distributive justice. The theory of corrective justice seeks “moderation between gain and loss” in both the moral and legal spheres; the concept of the national interest is always discussed in terms of interests and advocates the greatest good for the state in the game of interests. The Marxist theory calls for the “association of free men,” advocates the pattern of the interdependence of all nations, achieving the full and free development of everyone in the community. To varying degrees, these theories reveal the purpose of global justice: to reconcile differences and conflicts over the distribution of global public interests through positive institutional arrangements, to pursue substantive justice, and to facilitate the coexistence and development of a community with a shared future. On the side of the justification of global justice theory, the feasibility of global justice can be tested in four aspects: acceptability, comprehensiveness, inclusiveness, and possible negative impacts. In addition, as a concrete expression of global justice theory, the obligations of states are more clearly defined and practicable in comparison with the rights and responsibilities model, which can serve as a guarantee of the feasibility of global justice theory. In reality, as the concrete expressions of global justice, the human rights obligation of the state to protect the right to health, the obligation of participating in the global governance of the international community, and the obligation of developed countries to assist developing countries have further justified the global sharing and equitable distribution of vaccines and responded to the real needs of global justice. 
 
However, the global fight against the epidemic still faces serious challenges due to different national interests. Associate Professor Zhao Wendan from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law analyzed the media framing of the New York Times’ coverage of China’s combat against the epidemic from the perspective of journalism and communication. Based on the media framing theory, she used three structural levels — high, medium, and low — to systematically analyze the new York Times’ coverage of China’s combat against the COVID-19 epidemic, revealing the media framing behind the New York Times’ coverage11
 
In terms of media framing, high-level structural frames often decide the main idea of news and reflect the media’s underlying attitudes and perceptions of them. In the case of the coverage from a leading US media outlet, the New York Times, China’s battle against the epidemic is placed within the framework of the human rights discourse, with “American-style” human rights being the standard by which China’s combat against the epidemic is measured, and the legitimacy of the standard is maintained using languages such as words, phrases and sentences and the choice of reporting methods.The mid-level structure is a way for the media to explain the basic attitudes laid down in the high-level structure through the content, presentation, and layout of the story. In the case of the New York Times’ coverage, the news style was “editorials” instead of “news reporting” to guide public opinion; in terms of textual structure, they repeatedly linked the coverage to negative historical material to reinforce China’s “original sin”; in terms of news material, they selectively ignored or added many subjective judgments. In the media framing system, the low-level structural frame is mainly in the form of linguistic symbols, word combinations, and other microscopic forms to illustrate the framework of the high-level structural framing. In terms of news headlines, they mainly targeted negative news about Wuhan, the economy, and vaccines, in terms of information sources, they were selected from sources that hold negative opinions, thus creating a pool of negative opinions. From an analysis of word frequency, the New York Times’ coverage reinforced identity attributes and created group antagonism; from the lexical morphemes, they mostly used words of negative emotions to brew negative emotions. In its coverage of China’s anti-epidemic practices, the new York Times concluded that “China’s antiepidemic practices infringe on human rights” through its deliberately chosen reporting language and reporting techniques. The U.S. media used the hegemonic power of its discourse in the global public opinion arena to mislead the global public, posing a great challenge to China’s narrative efforts in the international human rights discourse. 
 
B. The basic Consensus on the International Battle against the Pandemic
 
The only way to end the pandemic is global cooperation, not confrontation or competition. According to Ms. Shyami Puvimanasinghe, Officer of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, viruses know no borders and so should cooperation in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Only in this way can we promote the common development of all humanity.12 Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, Director, Department of Non-Communicable Diseases, World Health Organization, spoke about the relationship between Non-Communicable Diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic can exacerbate the incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases, especially in more disadvantaged countries and regions. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, there should be a global partnership to develop a global health system, which is indeed a guarantee of human rights.13 In the context of the global crisis caused by the pandemic, Mr. Victor Cortiso from Spain argued for a new paradigm for international relations: first, the pandemic is a global challenge that requires joint international strategies; second, geopolitical analysis of the pandemic should be avoided and attacks on other countries based on the pandemic should be avoided; third, we shoulder the responsibility for the poor and vulnerable people; fourth, more new diplomatic cooperation environments such as the Belt and Road Initiative should be created; fifth, transparency in information exchange, global solidarity and support for the widest possible distribution of vaccines should be maintained in the face of the new diplomatic opportunities presented by the battle against the pandemic.14 Researcher José Manuel Duarte de Jesus of the University of Lisbon, Portugal, unpacked the relationship between the EU and China in the postpandemic era. He argued that with the rise of Asia, and in particular China, Europe must prevent any polarization and contribute to building a post-pandemic world in which there is a political and economic balance.15
 
The delegates all agreed that the virus knows no borders and the pandemic knows no race. In the wake of the outbreak, the international community must act swiftly and unite to fight the pandemic and that is the only way to save humanity from this disaster. 
 
In the face of the severe pandemic, vaccines are coming onstream in many countries, offering hope for the world. However, the lack of manufacturing capacity and the strict requirements for storage and transportation make it challenging to promote widespread vaccination as soon as possible, and this requires more global cooperation to better address the challenges of global vaccines development and deployment, and to promote more efficient and coordinated vaccine production and distribution. Aslan Abashidze, a Russian expert from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, believed that the equitable global distribution of vaccines is now an important issue.16 
 
We have already seen the discrimination and inequality caused by the pandemic on a global scale. If the pandemic is not brought under control as soon as possible, it will have an even worse impact on all human rights. Now that some countries have developed effective vaccines, it is important that there is more dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors, such as pharmaceutical companies, to get the vaccines distributed globally. Mr. Alexandre Mo.chiro, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the East-West Institute of Urban Governance in Greece, also spoke from the perspective of vaccines: is taking vaccination against COVID-19 a duty or a choice for citizens to practice their right to life and health? If vaccination is only a matter of personal choice, should people who are infected due to refusing vaccination be entitled to the medical resources provided by the public health service system? The question is worthy of consideration. Countries that can bring the COVID-19 pandemic under effective control will be countries where citizens have a high sense of responsibility. To be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to accept certain concessions to one’s liberties to prevent and control the pandemic is to be responsible not only for one’s own life and health but also for the lives of other citizens and even for humanity as a whole. China is certainly an example to follow for the rest of the world, in terms of its people’s practice in the fight against the pandemic. 
 
III. Protection of the Rights of Specific Groups in COVID-19 Pandemic 
 
Due to the lack of protection of their basic rights and effective means of expressing their interests, specific groups are often in a disadvantaged position when it comes to pursuing and expressing their interests. In the fight against COVID-19, the rights and interests of specific groups are in a doubly vulnerable position due to their special characteristics and circumstances, so a fair society should provide special protection for their rights and interests. The third key issue of concern in this seminar was the protection of the right to life and health of specific groups in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
A. Protection of the Rights of Specific Groups based on Physical Reasons 
 
Due to biological reasons such as age and physical function, certain groups may need special care in an epidemic to reach equality. Professor Gong Xianghe and Ms. Gao Yike of Southeast University conducted a comparative study of and the practices in China and the United Kingdom, using the right to life of older people in the pandemic as a sample for analysis. Official data shows that the right to life and health of the elderly is equally protected in China, while the right to life of the elderly in the UK is at risk in the pandemic. The reason for it lies in the different perceptions of the right to equality and the right to freedom in China and the United Kingdom.This difference is due to the different perceptions of the right to equality and the right to freedom in China and the UK.17 
 
With regard to the right to equality, the Chinese government always insists on the equality of all people, opposes all concepts and phenomena of inequality, including age discrimination. In addition, the Chinese government can adjust gaps through public authority, thus achieving practical equality. Under the influence of Western political philosophers, the British government takes individual freedom as the purpose of equality, and the right to equality is generalized and abstracted, which can easily lead to utilitarianism and undermine equality in reality. In terms of the right to liberty, China, as a late-modernizing country, government explains the right to liberty more from the perspective of collective liberty. In the United Kingdom, where liberty grows from a mature civil society, the state’s concern focuses on absolute and individual liberty. In addition to this, the legal and political systems of China and the United Kingdom are also different. China is a socialist country with the Communist Party of China as the core of its leadership. China’s political system features organizational discipline, the accountability of subordinates to superiors, the subordination of the entire party to the central government, and the strong dependence of society on the government at all levels. The government at all levels has unlimited responsibility to the people and therefore the whole society can cooperate to the maximum extent with the government in terms of resource allocation during the pandemic. In the United Kingdom on the other hand capitalist parliamentary democracy has been established since the Glorious Revolution. Political parties are more like an electoral machine, with politicians elected by universal suffrage and voters taking responsibility for wrong decisions.The government has limited responsibility and its powers are devolved to local authorities and society as a whole so that the interaction between the state and social rights, central and local powers in the fight against the pandemic is difficult. The government had to calculate the cost of fighting the pandemic in a utilitarian and absolutely rational way, thus proposing “mass immunization” as the primary prevention and control measure. In terms of legislation, the Chinese Constitution, the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, and other laws, regulations and policy documents have made special provisions for the protection of the rights and interests of the elderly; whereas the United Kingdom, due to its common law system, does not make any special provisions for the protection of the right to life of the elderly. As a result of the above differences in values and institutions, the guarantee of the right to life of older people in practice, in terms of disease treatment, vaccination, nursing institution system, social organization, and global cooperation, also differs greatly between the two countries. The right to life of the elderly, who are extremely vulnerable due to old age, illness, and limited ability to accept new technologies, requires special protection from the state to achieve substantial equality, which should be a global consensus in the COVID-19 emergency without any doubt. What the Chinese and UK governments have in common in fighting COVID-19 is that they both regard the pandemic as a major public health event. However, they have chosen different paths due to the differences in theories and systems to fight the epidemic. Objectively speaking, the measures taken by China to combat the pandemic have been proved to be effective, and the United Kingdomcould learn from the Chinese government’s emergency response. At the same time, the UK’s measures could also be useful for China in the post-pandemic period. The two countries and the world should strengthen their cooperation, complement each other’s strengths and work together to combat the pandemic. The author suggests that the main areas of focus for the present and future global efforts could be: further improvement of laws and policies on the protection of the right to life of the elderly at the national level, the introduction of standards on the duty of care for medical activities at the hospital level, the introduction of codes of practice for emergency services in nursing homes at the institutional level, and the promotion of smart elderly services at the community and corporation levels. 
 
In addition to the elderly, the protection of the rights of people with disabilities in the pandemic has its characteristics.18 Professor Zhang Wanhong from Wuhan University shared the practice of social organizations helping people with disabilities in the prevention and control of the pandemic. At the beginning of the outbreak, the pandemic in Hubei tugged at the hearts of every Chinese, and the disabled in Hubei needed special help. Professor Zhang Wanhong shared many examples regarding the work of social organizations for people with disabilities during the pandemic, demonstrating a moving scene where communities helped specific groups in various ways. 
 
B. Safeguarding the Rights of Specific Groups Based on Social Identity 
 
In an epidemic, certain groups of people are more vulnerable because of their specific professions or the particular social circumstances brought about by the epidemic, and these groups need special attention. Mr. Nicolas Irozun of France approached this issue from the perspective of what Chinese medical workers have done to protect people’s right to life and health in the pandemic. He observed that from the very beginning of the outbreak, the Chinese government has stressed that the safety and health of the people should come first and that patients with the COVID-19 should be treated at all costs. But at the same time, one issue that cannot be ignored is how to protect the right to life of medical workers in the fight against the pandemic. He believes that the Chinese government has done a very successful job in this regard. 19 
 
In the early days of the pandemic, in addition to the medical staff in Wuhan, more than 40,000 medical workers were sent from all over the country to help Wuhan, and the Chinese government continued to pay attention to improving the working environment. In addition to this, the Chinese government has awarded high honors to advanced individuals and groups in the medical field who have made significant contributions in the fight against the pandemic. This demonstrates that Chinese society as a whole has a profound understanding of the value of life. Chinese people believe that human life is not just physical, but also spiritual. 
 
Professor Cao Yan from Northwestern University of Political Science and Law discussds the issue from the perspective of a specific group called “short-time workers”. One of the urgent tasks in the pandemic is to stabilize enterprises. The core of stabilizing enterprises is to stabilize employment, especially dealing with the development dilemma faced by small and medium-sized enterprises during the pandemic. Therefore, the central government has introduced measures to support enterprises and increase the number of flexible jobs. Flexible jobs refer to “shorttime” jobs in specific working hours. However, short-time work has not yet been fully covered by China’s labor law system, making it difficult for the rights and interests of the workers to be effectively protected by the labor law. Therefore this is a legal issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible to stabilize employment during the pandemic.20 
 
In terms of international practice, there are mainly two institutional paths to build the regulation of short-time work: labor benchmark legislation and collective bargaining. In the labor benchmark legislation, attention needs to be paid to issues such as the standard of government subsidies for small and medium-sized enterprises, the protection of workers’ right to rest, and avoiding gender discrimination in the workplace. To address these issues, on the one hand, local legislative power can be brought into play, and local legislation can be enacted to regulate short-time work based on the basic labor standards stipulated in national laws, so as to form regionalized rules and standards. On the other hand, the labor standards for short-time work can be transformed into provisions of collective contracts through collective bargaining between employers and employees, so as to form standards at the enterprise level, which in turn can form industry-wide regulation standards. 
 
Associate Professor Wang Jinwen from the Law School of Central South University discusses from the perspective of the protection of the rights and interests of participants in medical trials.21
 
Human subjects differ from ordinary patients because human trials generally take place in unknown or scientifically unproven fields. Therefore, in addition to the ethical, diverse, proprietary, professional, and closed nature of the medical practice, it is also characterized by (1) unpredictability of risk, (2) unpredictability of subject interests, (3) conflict of interest between investigator and subject, and (4) tolerance of harm occurring. Since the efficacy and safety of human trials are still unknown and may infringe or endanger the life, body, health, privacy, and other rights of the subjects, it is necessary to protect the rights and safety of the subjects (both healthy volunteers or volunteer patients) in particular.The existing law does not provide sufficient protection for subjects. Therefore, it is necessary to explore the values that the system of protection for human subjects aims to achieve, which is also the theoretical basis of the subject’s autonomy.This leads to a more critical analysis of the norms and mechanisms for the protection of subjects in human trials. Ethical norms are of great reference for the protection of subjects, and their principles are in general the following: (1) respect for autonomy; (2) no maleficence; (3) beneficence; and (4) justice.In the light of the horrific German-Japanese fascist human experimentation in the Second World War, “informed consent” has become a primary requirement of bioethics. The theoretical basis of informed consent is human dignity, the core value of which lies in the patient’s or subject’s right to make autonomous decisions. However, the principle of “informed consent” is still in its infancy in China, and its regulation is extremely sketchy. The implementation of “informed consent” in practice faces two problems: one is the researcher’s obligation to inform and explain, and another is the subject’s consent based on their autonomy.The author argues that the construction of a medical system of capacity to consent, including the capacity of the subject to the consent and the capacity of the patient to consent, should be based on mental maturity and mental state. Those who lack the capacity to consent are unable to decide to participate in the experiment on their own and must rely on the representation of others. This is discussed in the context of the participation of minors and mentally handicapped patients respectively. The purpose of “informed consent”” is to protect the autonomy of the subject, but for some subjects in special circumstances, their particular situation may be so oppressive that they are unable to make a voluntary decision. This is discussed in the examples of two special groups: offenders/ sentenced persons and pregnant women. With the current rapid development of the pharmaceutical biotechnology industry, if the harm caused by human trials is caused by the risks of the emerging technology and cannot be attributed to the researcher, the subject must bear the risk of permanent disability alone. Therefore, there is a need for more detailed institutional regulation of subjects in human trials, otherwise, they will inevitably become the biggest victims of the combined drive for medical progress and commercial interests in society as a whole. 
 
In addition to the above concerns of the scholars, participants of this symposium also discussed hot topics including raising awareness of racial discourse against Asian groups and safeguarding the rights of digitally disadvantaged groups in the context of the pandemic. 
 
IV. The Ethics of State Security Responsibility in the Pandemic
 
The state is a political union that establishes supreme jurisdiction within defined territorial boundaries and exercises authority through a set of permanent institutions. These institutions are responsible for the collective organization of community life and are financed by public expenditure. Therefore, they can be considered “public”. The debate around the role of the state, the nature of state power, and state responsibility can be considered a central issue in political philosophy. What responsibilities and duties should the tate take on in the pandemic? What governing logic should the state adopt to enhance its legitimacy? These are all questions worth exploring. The fourth key concern of this seminar lies in the question of tate responsibility for guaranteeing the right to life and health in public health crises. 
 
A. Theoretical Foundations of State Responsibility 
 
To clarify what kind of responsibility the state should assume in a public health crisis, the first step is to sort it out from a theoretical perspective. Professor Ban Wenzhan of the China University of Political Science and Law offered an outline analysis of the identification and implementation of state responsibility for safeguarding the right to life and health in public crises.22 
 
The duty of the state to guarantee the right to life and health in public health crises refers to the legal or/and moral obligation or duty of the state to safeguard the health and life of individuals in emergencies that seriously threaten or impair public health. This duty requires each state, acting individually or collectively, to take a variety of steps or measures necessary and appropriate to control, mitigate or eliminate a public health crisis to the maximum extent possible and to safeguard the health and lives of all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction. Therefore, in a public health crisis, governments are required to make full use of all available resources at home and abroad, to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities actively, proactively, and sincerely, and to strengthen their collaboration with other members of the international community. 
 
Professor Shao Chunbao of Beijing University mentioned that state sovereignty should protect the right to life and health during an epidemic. This is because human rights such as the right to life and health are inherent rights of human beings, but as citizens of the state, people have ceded part of their rights to the state, which together with other rights constitute the sovereignty of the state. Therefore, the sovereignty of the State has the responsibility to guarantee the right to health and the right to life of its citizens.23 
 
During the pandemic, the Chinese government, to protect the right to life and health of Chinese citizens, has fully mobilized state resources and taken emergency measures to actively prevent and treat the disease. In addition to this, it has also adopted restrictive requirements such as home isolation and social distancing. This concession of rights is for the sake of long-term and broader freedom and is itself an initiative taken by the state to safeguard citizens. These initiatives reflect the traditional Chinese culture of collectivism and a sense of the greater good.The United States and other countries have not given positive guidance to the citizens who refused to wear masks during the pandemic, which on the surface is a respect for the citizens’ right to freedom, but from an objective point of view is the inaction of state sovereignty. Ultimately, this has led to the widespread transmission of the virus, and it is also the result of the individualistic culture in the traditions of Western countries.How to perceive these different cultures can only be judged by practice, the people, and history. From the perspective of the cession of rights, citizens of each country concede their rights to their own country thus creating national sovereignty, and therefore logically other countries have no right to interfere. The sovereignty and human rights of all countries are equal and should be respected by each other, and virus prevention and control should not be politicized or misinterpreted. 
 
Professor Mao Junrong of Central South University argued that in major public health emergencies, the state must assume the necessary obligations to safeguard human rights.24
 
Generally speaking, the subject of human rights obligations is the state, and the state’s obligation to guarantee human rights in an epidemic has its particularities. First, there are state obligations based on international human rights conventions which focus on safeguarding the right to health, such as the obligation to take timely measures for testing, isolation, and treatment, to provide timely health services, and to engage in global cooperation. Second, there are state obligations based on international health regulations that focus on improving global health, such as the obligation to fulfill notification obligations in international health regulations, healthcare capacity building, and the prevention, defense against, and control of the international spread of disease. Based on the object of promoting global health, this obligation is also essentially a human rights obligation to promote the right to health. Third, to prevent, resist and control the international spread of diseases and safeguard public health, states usually adopt restrictive measures on transnational mobility, social life and civil rights, such as restrictions on international traffic and compulsory observation in isolation, which are necessary for the prevention and control of an epidemic. These restrictive measures must keep the balance between public health, good order and human rights guarantees, and are subject to the derived obligations of non-discrimination and prohibition of abuse of restrictive measures. 
 
Associate Professor Liu Peng of Shanxi University employed the history of ideologies to clarify the theoretical basis of the right to life and health as the most important value option for human rights protection.25 
 
In a modern society where human rights have become the “lingua franca of global moral thought”, the diversity of cultures can lead to a diversity of conceptual values, resulting in a constant conflict, which is particularly evident in the prevention and control of global pandemics. To bridge the gap between practice and theory, it is necessary to consider the abstract consensus of human rights and to return to the essence, the form of demands, and the concrete content of human rights. The essence of human rights protection is to preserve the existence of the “human” because all social rights should be based on the existence of the individual. In the prevention and control of the pandemic, the protection of the existence of the “human” should be the highest priority, which means that the right to life and health is the primary human right. The theory and practice of pandemic prevention and control show that the right to life and health is the starting and ending point for responding to the fundamental contradictions between the rational and the intellectual, the individual and the collective, and the domestic and the foreign. In the process, it is necessary to strengthen the public information work on the response to emergencies and the technical governance system within the rule of law in emergencies. 
 
B. The Practice of State Responsibility 
 
The theoretical clarification of state responsibility ultimately has to be put into practice, which demonstrates a state’s ability to govern. Associate Professor Guo Miao from Northwest University of Political Science and Law discussed the political function of rural radio loudspeakers in the sudden outbreaks from the perspective of raising public awareness.26 
 
The outbreak was identified in early 2020, during the Chinese New Year period, a time when the number of people on the move increases dramatically, making the rural areas highly populated areas as migrant workers return home for the festival. As an important element of our administrative divisions, rural control communication related to the pandemic is a priority for grassroots governance. Therefore, rural radio loudspeakers became an important means of disseminating public information about the pandemic and the policy response.Being able to bridge the divide through precise wording and enhancing the understanding of villagers by reaching them with precision, the rural radio loudspeaker has become a tool for activating the awareness of political participation. It adopts the form of virtual aggregation of normative power and ritualization of meetings and therefore can be seen as a representation of political governance at the grassroots level. ”Overflow”and “resonance” enable new media to interact with rural radio loudspeakers for secondary communication, which enhances the effectiveness of political communication, innovates the means of grassroots governance, guides social opinion, effectively prevents social risks, and improves the level of governance and governance capacity of the country. 
 
Professor Xu Yawen and Ms. Li Ziqi from Wuhan University reflected on and reconstructed the early warning mechanism for public health emergencies. In the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries have experienced problems with their early warning mechanisms, for example, inconsistent actions and divergent opinions of the parties involved in early warning, which can affect the public’s judgment; inadequate mechanisms for early warning activation and insufficient scientific measures for early warning implementation.In comparison, China’s early warning mechanism has the following characteristics: from the perspective of early warning subjects, first, China has a “unified leadership”, “comprehensive coordination”, “hierarchical responsibility” and “local management-oriented” emergency management system, which works efficiently. Second, although there are a variety of early warning subjects in China, they are only involved in the transmission of early warning information, while the authority to issue early warnings is relatively singular. In addition, the law grants early warning authority to multiple subjects but does not specify the scope of each subject’s early warning power, which may lead to a lack of cooperation among the various subjects.In terms of the activation mechanism for early warning, China’s legal provisions are not perfect. China now divides public health emergencies into four general classes in terms of the nature of the event, the degree of danger, and the scope involved, which is not conducive to responding to new situations that may arise. In terms of the standardization of early warning measures, China is more proactive 
than other countries and is more effective in guiding public awareness of the crisis.27 
 
In the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s epidemic early warning measures have provided a good experience for other countries, and the early warning measures taken by other countries in response to public health emergencies can also inspire to improve relevant policies in China: first, China should further improve its legal system and refine its legal norms. Second, China should further develop the participation of multiple subjects. Third, China should further strengthen global cooperation and draw on the experience of other countries in areas such as early warning activation indicators. Fourth, China should strengthen social guidance. 
 
V. Global cooperation in the prevention and control of COVID-19 
 
The outbreak of COVID-19 is a classic “non-traditional security” issue, which can hardly be solved by individual countries but must be solved by the joint efforts of the international community as a whole. This joint effort is also known as global governance, because the means of protecting the public security of the international community are manifold, in addition to the formal institutions and organizations — national institutions, intergovernmental cooperation, etc.. — that establish (or do not establish) and maintain the governance of the world order, the United Nations system, the World Trade Organization, and other transnational social movements, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, regional political organizations, individual citizens, etc., can all contribute to the protection of public security. Thus in the prevention and control of the pandemic, the subjects of global cooperation are diverse. The fifth key concern of this seminar was the issue of global cooperation in the prevention and control of the pandemic. 
 
A. Theory and Practice of Global Cooperation 
 
In the face of the raging pandemic, only global cooperation can rid people of the virus and restore global security and development, and therefore it is our common responsibility and desire to “promote cooperation and seek a win-win situation.” Ms. Wu Wenyang from the China University of Political Science and Law analyzed global cooperation in the light of the Draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity. International solidarity is an important value and principle for reaching global agendas and goals and bringing all parties together to address the global public health security crisis. According to the UN’s Draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity, international solidarity is also a human right, and states are obliged to cooperate globally to address global challenges.According to the provisions of this draft for reactive solidarity and global cooperation, the international community should act collectively in response to epidemics, and countries with abilities should help other countries in difficulty to realize the rights contained in international human rights treaties.28 
 
In the context of the pandemic, international solidarity and cooperation are particularly important to control and eliminate the pandemic and to fully protect the right to health and other rights. Only through active global cooperation and solidarity among countries to prevent “vaccine nationalism” can the crisis be solved together. 
 
According to Mr. Zhang Guobin, Executive Director of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, in response to the pandemic, China has now gradually established a comprehensive response mechanism led by the government with the cooperation of multiple departments and the participation of the whole society. At the same time, China has been taking measures to actively participate in global cooperation in the prevention and control of COVID-19. The main global cooperation measures include: First, ongoing global cooperation projects to improve the capacity, expertise, and research methods for the prevention and control of the pandemic through training courses, workshops, and study tours.Second, China has established a platform for exchange and sharing and assisted other developing countries in the prevention and treatment of the pandemic through financial and technical support. Third, China has carried out medical expert and protective material assistance. Since the outbreak, China has provided a large amount of emergency assistance to 83 countries as well as international organizations such as World Health Organization and the African Union. Fourth, China has been actively engaged in public diplomacy.29 
 
B. Global Cooperation among Diverse Subjects 
 
As a prevalent form of international relations, global cooperation has many types aand forms. During prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, global cooperation involves not only national governments but also other capable and diverse actors.Mr. Zhang Ti of the Shanghai Institute for American Studies, NGO, and US Foreign Policy Research Centre spoke about cooperation in the global fight against the pandemic at the level of local diplomacy.30
 
Local diplomacy is an important part of the country’s overall diplomacy, and it has three main characteristics: first, the local nature of the subject. In a broad sense, local diplomacy can include not only the activities of local governments but also local civil society’s international activities. Second, the duality of objectives. The primary objective of local diplomacy is to contribute to the overall diplomacy of the country, but local diplomacy also has the important function of promoting local economic and social development. Third, the diversity of forms.These features have taken on new connotations in the epidemic period. Restrictions on cross-border exchanges, imbalances in local diplomatic resources, and the extension of stigmatizing actions during the pandemic posed some challenges to local diplomacy. Despite all these unfavorable factors, local diplomacy still promoted mutual assistance in antiepidemic materials, the sharing of anti-epidemic experiences, and the joint efforts in anti-epidemic research through international anti-epidemic cooperation and online exchanges. At a time when the world is facing common challenges, local diplomacy should make full use of its advantages, shoulder responsibilities, and contribute to government diplomacy by continuing to use local exchange platforms to enhance trust and resolve doubts, promote multilateral local diplomacy and further enrich the forms of exchange. 
 
Associate Professor Liu Hongchun from Yunnan University analysed global cooperation in the control and prevention of the pandemic from the perspective of social organizations. After a precise analysis of the external (development opportunities and threats) and internal (advantages and disadvantages) conditions in the global cooperation on epidemic prevention and control, Associate Professor Liu Hongchun proposed the principles, methods of participation, the construction of prevention and control mechanisms for external and internal risks and suggestions for the operation of social organizations in the global cooperation on epidemic prevention and control.31 
 
Generally speaking, society consists of three sectors, each playing a different role in promoting its progress: the “first sector” is governments, the ““second sector” is for-profit businesses, and the “third sector” is the non-profit or social organizations. The third sector draws on its professional capacity to provide self-service, public service, and manage social affairs, so it has the responsibility to participate in global cooperation for epidemic prevention and control. The new era should give social organizations a new role, namely to participate in international human rights governance from the bottom up by working on people’s livelihoods and safeguarding their rights. In the prevention and control of the epidemic, the global cooperation of social organizations also follows the five models of social organizations’ participation in international human rights governance, namely the local partner type, the private with government-assistance type, the socially-run joint enterprise type, the lending ship type, and the social media cooperation type. It can be expected that, with the continuous development of Chinese social organizations, they will show more power on the international stage. 
 
VI. Conclusion 
 
So far, COVID-19 is still raging in hundreds of countries around the world, and the distribution of vaccines remains unfair worldwide. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, pointed out that the pandemic is a severe threat to the right to life and health of all people around the world and that this health crisis is a test of the resilience of societies, of which the human rights framework is an important benchmark. The most fundamental concern of human rights protection should be to enable people to live in dignity, and to live in dignity, a prerequisite is life and health. 
 
Two of the most important common points can be summarized from the papers and speeches of the delegates at this conference: first, in the face of an epidemic, the State must take responsibility for its people and protect their right to life and health. The right to life and health is a fundamental and inclusive human right, and a basic guarantee for human beings to live in dignity. The universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person”. China upholds the primacy of life, organically unifies the right to life and the right to health, effectively integrates the rights to life, life safety, physical and mental health, and the exclusion of infringements, and implements a full chain of protection for the right to life and health. This is the duty of the state in the prevention and control of epidemics. 
 
Second, all delegates agreed on the need to establish an effective international mechanism to combat the epidemic as soon as possible. Although this process is still fraught with challenges, especially with regard to issues such as the distribution of vaccines. Today, amid a 100-year change and the pandemic which hasn’t been seen for a century, there is still a long way to go to achieve universal security and promote common development. To realize the great dream of all peoples to pursue a happy life and fully enjoy human rights, it is necessary to pool the wisdom and strength of all parties in China and Europe, to strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust, seek common ground while reserving differences, and to draw experience, deepen understanding and gain momentum from practice. 
 
(Translated by FENG Zhuoya & JIA Binrui)
 
* ZHANG Qile ( 张祺乐 ), Lecturer of Human Rights Institute at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Doctor of Laws.
 
1. The Collection of the 2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights on “COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”, 22-29.
 
2. The first session of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health’”: “COVID-19 Prevention and Control and National Governance Innovation: China’s Ideologies and Experience.”
 
3. Ibid.
 
4. The Collection of the 2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights on “COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”, 10-17.
 
5. Ibid., 18-21.
 
6. Ibid., 35-39.
 
7. The first session of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health’”: “COVID-19 Prevention and Control and National Governance Innovation: China’s Ideologies and Experience.”
 
8. Keynote speech of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”: Measures Taken by the Regional Government of Lazio Government to Safeguard the Health of Its Citizens.
 
9. Keynote speech of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”.
 
10. The Collection of the 2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights on “COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”, 300-316.
 
11. Ibid., 333-342.
 
12. Ibid.
 
13. Keynote speech of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health’”: “Relation Between NCDs and the COVID-19”.
 
14. Keynote speech of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health.’”
 
15. Ibid.
 
16. Keynote speech of “2021 · China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights ‘COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health’”.
 
17. Ibid., 122-145.
 
18. The second session of the “2021-European Human Rights Seminar ‘COVID-19 and the Right to Life and Health’”: “Social Organizations for the Disabled in the Prevention and Control of the Pandemic.”
 
19. The Collection of the 2021 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights on “COVID-19 and Guarantee of the Right to Life and Health”, 4-7.
 
20. Ibid., 119-122.
 
21. Ibid., 161-195.
 
22. Ibid., 247-248.
 
23. Ibid., 250-254.
 
24. Ibid., 238-249.
 
25. Ibid., 39-62.
 
26. Ibid., 255-268.
 
27. Ibid., 218-237.
 
28. Ibid., 317-323.
 
29. Ibid., 324-327.
 
30. Ibid., 328-332.
 
31. Ibid., 292-299.
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