China must be held accountable for the coronavirus outbreak, as thousands of lives could have been saved if it had acted earlier, says a leading human rights advocate.
The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for concealing, destroying and falsifying information when the virus was first detected in Wuhan, argues Professor Irwin Cotler, the chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and a former Canadian Attorney-General and Justice minister. If China had acted three weeks earlier then the transmission of coronavirus could have been reduced by 95 per cent, he contends, echoing the conclusions of a recent report by the UK-based Henry Jackson Society.
“[There has been a] subsequent false and misleading global disinformation campaign which has sought to sanitize their criminality yet blame others for it. The disturbing part is that the international community is yet to hold them to account,” he added.
“I’m hoping this will be a wake-up call for the international community,” said Cotler (right). “I think life after this… is going to be transformed and one of the hopeful transformations will be a measure of justice and accountability, internationally, for the human rights violators.”
It is wrong to accuse China, based on present evidence, of willfully releasing a plague on the world, the Washington Post observed. It is right to point out that China’s system and its deceptions made the situation worse, and the proper remedy would be more transparency and full disclosure.
“The Chinese did what authoritarians do,” said Hoover Institution Fellow Condoleezza Rice. “They silenced those who were trying to sound the alarm, they wanted time to create the narrative that would be blessed by the Communist Party of China, which means it probably had to go to Beijing before you could say anything. It is just the nature of the system. It is a real problem.”
The time to press for a full accounting of Beijing’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic will be once the current crisis has begun to recede, argues Princeton University professor Aaron Friedberg, author of A Contest for Supremacy: China, America and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia. For the moment, without getting our hopes up, we should remain open to the possibility of cooperating with China in fighting the virus and coping with its consequences.
In the somewhat longer term, the United States and other like-minded countries should create an independent, international “truth commission” to explore the origins and unfolding of the pandemic, he tells Vox;
Aside from whatever happens with China, the US and other democracies should work together to enhance coordination and improve cooperation on a wide range of issues, including reducing their dependence on China for the drugs, medical devices, and other equipment that will be needed to fight the next global outbreak of infectious disease.