China won’t end zero COVID approach despite human cost: expert

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will not end its COVID-19 zero policy approach anytime soon, as the legitimacy of its leadership now hinges on the outcome of the health battle, but it will do so at the expense of human rights. It is done.

That’s what the experts said at the November 16th meeting. hearing On the Chinese administration’s COVID-zero policy held by the US Congressional Executive Committee on China (CECC), a bipartisan congressional committee.

Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, has shed light on the secondary problems caused by the Chinese Communist Party’s long and stringent implementation of the zero COVID approach.

For example, by locking people in their homes, residents struggled to get food and other essentials during the pandemic, and non-COVID patients were forced to delay or deny medical care. Repeated neighborhood blockades and school closures have also exacerbated the mental health crisis within China.

“[Moving] The only sensible approach to overcome this human rights dilemma is to get out of Covid-09,” Huang told the panel.

But it won’t be easy for Chinese Communist Party leaders to rethink their response to the outbreak, according to Dr. Laurie Truex, an assistant professor of politics and international relations at Princeton University.

The reason, he said, is that the strategy to quell the outbreak is “personally tied to the party leader who will lose his place in the system if the policy fails.”

Since the first COVID-19 outbreak was reported in Wuhan, the Chinese government has combated the virus with strict social control measures to eliminate all infections within the community. Snap lockdowns, daily testing, mass surveillance, and mandatory quarantines for those deemed at risk are among the methods adopted by Chinese Communist Party officials in their zero-COVID policy.

Three years from now, many expect a communist regime to signal a change in direction from the draconian approach that has hurt the economy, fueled public dissatisfaction, and isolated the country from the rest of the world. There is

But instead, Chinese leader Xi Jinping touted a zero-COVID strategy at last month’s 20th Party Congress as the best way to fight the pandemic. At his two political rallies in 10 years, President Xi gave himself a record third term in office and installed Ally in the party’s top decision-making body.

Epoch Times photo
People line up to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus next to a propaganda poster showing Chinese President Xi Jinping on a billboard in Beijing on August 31, 2022. (JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Truex, the Zero COVID approach, now Xi’s signature policy, should be understood as a political campaign.

“This is, of course, a style of governance that was more common during the Mao era, but it has been revived in a different form under Xi Jinping. , lower-level officials will fill in the blanks and implement policies to achieve the goals as much as possible,” the researchers said. “This approach is often problematic as junior staff struggle to meet goals, falsify data and engage in performance to show enthusiasm for central leadership.”

Political experts say Xi has promoted officials who have dutifully implemented draconian policies, namely Shanghai party leader Li Qiang and Beijing party secretary Cai Qi, sending the message that there is no immediate exit from the COVID-control strategy. sent.

“Cai Qi is now the second-largest member of the Chinese Communist Party and is set to take over the post of prime minister. It means having a strong vested interest in maintaining that perception,” he said.

Beijing has announced it will ease some of its strict virus restrictions slightly, including shortening quarantine times for incoming travelers, but Dr. Truex said it was only “very small incremental steps.” , said it did not demonstrate the core principle of eliminating viruses. will be changed.

“It’s best not to underestimate the stickiness of this [zero-COVID] “This policy is very likely to be somewhere in some form or another for the months and years to come,” he said. Not suddenly.”

call for action

Supporters told the panel that the United States should continue to support Chinese citizens trying to shed light on the pandemic inside China, as no major policy changes are expected.

Freedom House’s head of research for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Sarah Cook, told U.S. officials in open and closed meetings with Chinese officials that China’s press freedom and political asked to consistently raise the issue of

One such prisoner of conscience is former lawyer-turned-journalist Zhang Zhan. He has served four years in prison for only reporting on his early COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.

Zhang, 39, traveled to Wuhan in February to document the chaotic scene at the epicenter of the pandemic during the initial lockdown. She detailed visits and interviews conducted in hospitals, quarantine stations, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in dozens of shaky cell phone videos uploaded to YouTube, as the outbreak was under control. I objected to the Chinese Communist Party’s explanation. Chan was later charged with “fighting and causing trouble”, a charge often brought by authorities against dissidents and whistleblowers.

Releases are difficult in President Xi Jinping’s China, but with consistent attention from the international community, Zhang and other imprisoned Chinese will at least get more protection, Tru said. X said.

“It protects them, helps them get medical care, sees their families, sees them, gets lawyers to see them, sometimes leads them to medical parole and can really save people’s lives. It won’t kick them out.

Dorothy Lee


Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.