In light of the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 where a variety of restrictive policies have been adopted in the affected regions on a scale that is unprecedented in human history, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan organised an international web-seminar themed “Comparison of Human Rights Values between the East and the West in Epidemic Prevention & Control” on 30 May 2020 that brought together over forty human rights experts from all over the world.
Amongst them are Professor Tom Zwart and Dr. Congrui Qiao, senior researchers at the Cross-Cultural Human Rights Centre who presented their analyse on legal actions against China that were brought overseas, and on liability of government actions, respectively.
In analysing a case of a litigation against China in Missouri, Professor Zwart, together with Professor Alexander Knoops from the University of Amsterdam, examined its legal standing in detail as well as defences applicable in the case, and argued that provided the commonly accepted elements in deciding a party’s legal standing and potential defences invokable to the defendant party, Missouri case against China and Chinese entities is unlikely to succeed.
Dr. Qiao started with measures known as ‘social distancing’ or ‘flattening the curve’ some of which are considered to be intrusive to individual freedoms and rights and refereed to a fundamental issue that deserves timely clarifications: whether and to what extent can a government be held liable for damages arising from its actions? To that end, she explained grounds for recognising government liability and factors that can suffice to establish government liability, and concluded with a hypothetical case on consequences of a lawsuit against governments’ anti-COVID-19 actions in selected legal systems.