By Liu Heng
International law sets boundaries for human rights protections in all countries, stipulating what they can and cannot do. The preface to the UN Charter reiterates basic human rights, dignity and value, and articles 55 and 56 both stipulate all member states are committed to take common and individual action to realize that human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings are universally respected and abided by regardless of race, gender, language or religion. Articles 2, 5 and 7 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination also impose a number of basic obligations on signatory parties. For example, it condemns racial discrimination and is committed to the basic obligation prohibiting all forms of racial discrimination, including “not to promote, defend or sponsor racial discrimination by any person or organization”.
It is also committed to the basic obligation that guarantees the equal rights of all people under the law, including the right to “public health and medical treatment”. At the same time, the Convention commits itself to the basic obligation to take effective measures “to combat prejudice leading to racial discrimination, particularly in the areas of teaching, education, culture and information”.
China and the US are both members of the United Nations and parties to International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Therefore, either the US endorsement of private acts of discrimination and incitement of discrimination against Chinese people or its state acts of discrimination and incitement of discrimination against Chinese people is in clear violation of the above international regulations.
Moreover, discrimination and incitement of discrimination against the Chinese people do not comply with the relevant principles of the International Health Law, whose aim and purpose is to safeguard the right to health of every person in the world and promote global health equity. The principle of equal dignity inherent in all people stressed by the human rights system is also embodied in the law.
For example, the World Health Organization constitution declares the right to health is one of the fundamental rights of every person irrespective of race, religion, political belief, economic and social conditions, and the principles “the achievements of any nation in the promotion and maintenance of health are of value to all mankind” are the basis for happiness, harmony and security of all peoples. Article 3 of the International Health Regulations (2005) states that “full respect for human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “universal application to protect all peoples of the world” are the principles of the IHR. When it comes to respecting human dignity and human rights, there are different ways under different situations. As stipulated in Article 32 of IHR, it shall include at least courtesy and taking into consideration individual gender, socio-cultural, ethnic or religious concerns.
The Chinese people have made every effort to fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic, not only to safeguard their own right to health, but also to safeguard the right to health of people all over the world, including in the US. As the UN and the WHO have repeatedly emphasized, the Chinese people have made great sacrifices in fighting the epidemic and contributing to the world. The US, like China, is a member of the WHO and a signatory party to the IHR, so it should not only comply with the relevant international regulations but also undertake international obligations, including international cooperation in fighting the epidemic.
However, the US chooses not to comply with the technical measures stipulated by the IHR, but also makes discriminatory remarks or incites discrimination against Chinese people. Such behavior is inconsistent with the principles of international health law but also shows a disregard for the inherent equality and dignity of human beings.
The US’ domestic laws do not justify its non-compliance with international treaties. The act of discrimination and incitement of discrimination against the Chinese people, whether or not it is qualifies as freedom of speech under US domestic law, cannot be a reason for the US not to comply with the UN Charter, IHR and other international human rights treaties.
In the face of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, a major infectious disease that threatens the common interests of mankind, all countries should strengthen cooperation and support each other based on the rule of law and international law to effectively respond to the severe challenges they face. Solidarity with no discrimination and stigma, which the WHO has repeatedly called for, is not only a political slogan but also a requirement of international law.
–The Daily Mail-China Daily news exchange item