Imagine, in a parallel dimension in which my individual human rights of freedom of speech would have been upheld and protected. In this dimension, I have the opportunity and freedom to share my scientific findings with my colleagues and peers across the nation and the world. Imagine, in this parallel dimension, I freely express my concerns about the dangers and consequences of a deadly and a highly contagious virus that I have discovered. In this dimension, my government who adheres to the responsibility of protecting my human rights, would take immediate and pre-cautionary actions to protect the human rights of its citizens who are in imminent danger. In this parallel dimension, my government will exchange uncensored information with other governments to request support-without the fear of being prosecuted or put under sanctions-protect the health and well-being of the rest of the world that is in line with protecting their basic human rights. In this dimension, I could have still been alive as my name is Li Wenliang.
Does this parallel dimension sound too far fetch? Does this belong to a utopian world? Does it far from what you and I could have had an impact on? What if our human rights are at stake? Our human rights for freedom of access to information? Our human rights for freedom of mobility? I believe our individual human rights have been violated because the human rights of Li Wenliang – the Chinese ophthalmologist who discovered the COVID-19 – was violated. Would this comparison brings this closer to “home” for you and I? And then would you and I still think that we cannot take any impactful action to turn the page?
Imagine, if you and I have cared and protected the human rights of Li, by holding our own government accountable to protect his human rights. Our government could have protected human right of Li, by holding the international community accountable to protect his rights. The international community could have protected the human rights of Li by holding the Chinese government accountable to protect his rights. And the Chinese government could have protected the human rights of Li, so Li would have been able to share his discovery with his peers without censorship. And he could have been alive in this dimension.
There are a lot of statements circulating in the development sector and other sectors regarding the importance of upholding the Human Rights during the pandemic while delivering the humanitarian aid – or who will have access at what costs to the vaccines against COVDI-19.
How about a statement in which we demand our governments and representatives to protect the human rights of Li and the ones like him, as a guarantee on upholding their rights is a guarantee on upholding our rights here. It’s not the first time, that a government like China has violated human rights of its own citizens and of other nations by withholding information – during SARS epidemic between 2002-2004, also the Chinese Government for months kept the information regarding the outbreak. What are the chances that in the next outbreak they don’t do the same?
In this parallel dimension, a potential outbreak is immediately contaminated and a global pandemic would have remained in the history books of distant past. In the dimension the guarantee of protection of “his” individual human rights would have prevented the COVID19 global pandemic.