Grassroots Governance and Human Rights Protection during the COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control in China
The full realization of human rights and the realization of full human rights are the common wish of the peoples of all countries in this era. They are also a desired goal that the Chinese people have long been seeking to accomplish. Today, China has entered a new era in which the banner of human rights is held high. The protection of human rights is a value the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government pursue in the governance of the country, and is also the fundamental purpose of China’s good grassroots governance. Here, I would like to take COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control as an example to put forward my opinions on good grassroots governance and human rights protection.
1. The pursuit of good grassroots governance in human rights protection in China
Nowadays, respecting and protecting human rights has become a key yardstick by which to measure political civilization. Protection of human rights varies in terms of methods and measures due to differences in historical traditions, thoughts, culture, and social systems in different countries. Subject to its national conditions, human rights protection in China requires not only scientific high-level design, but also good grassroots governance. The grassroots level society is a form of social organization in which the masses exist, and it is also a fundamental platform for the masses to exercise and protect human rights. The status of grassroots governance is directly related to how human rights are realized, and good grassroots governance is required for the full realization of human rights. Firstly, good grassroots governance is built on harmony and order, which are prerequisites for the full realization of human rights. Secondly, the fundamental purpose of good grassroots governance is to ensure people’s livelihood, which is essentially the realization of the right to survival. Thirdly, the essence of good grassroots governance is mass autonomy, which is an important way of realizing democratic rights.
2. COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control highlight the role of good grassroots governance in human rights protection
We are living in an era full of risks and uncertainty. Like other countries and regions, China suffers frequent contingencies such as natural disasters, accidents, public health crises, and social security events. The outbreak of COVID-19 is a major incident that has happened by chance in the development of human society. It disrupts the continuity of social development and normal social order, plunges people’s life into chaos, and challenges the protection of human rights. Disease prevention and control measures restrict the exercise of some people’s right to freedom, infringe on the property rights of some people, and harm the living standards of some people.
In terms of grassroots governance, China rises to the serious challenge of realizing human rights protection in epidemic prevention and control. At the macro level, grassroots level is the vanguard of disease prevention and control, including resident committees, village committees, grassroots Party organizations, the grassroots, and other grassroots forces. They are integrated to form a task force for prevention and control. Grid management works well, with grid operators functioning as information verifiers, policy publicists, mediators, and attendants.
They build the “first line of defense” in the local communities against the spread of COVID-19 and make great contributions to the safeguarding of human rights through disease prevention and control efforts. At the micro level, grassroots organizations have done their utmost to maximize the protection of human rights of the people through concrete work. In terms of everyday supplies, grassroots organizations serve as a bridge between the masses and businesses. Volunteers gather the shopping needs of the masses and distribute the purchased goods to the buyers; and deliver to the elderly and those in poor health. Their efforts help meet the basic living needs of communities and ensure the realization of the people’s right to basic living standards. In terms of healthcare, grassroots medical and health institutions and staff meet public healthcare needs through online diagnosis and home delivery service of medicines to protect the people’s right to health.
Of course, in the face of the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, some communities and villages in a panic implemented “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) measures, such as building roadblocks, laying brick walls and even destroying roads. NIMBY behavior is illegal and hinders the realization of other People’s rights.
3. Promotion of the unity of good grassroots governance and human rights protection amidst the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control
The COVID-19 pandemic will be over with the passage of time, and the prevention and control efforts will eventually become history. However, rampant infectious diseases won’t be eliminated altogether because after all humans have too much to learn from diseases. People can’t step into the same river twice. Using the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control as an opportunity, China should promote innovation in grassroots governance, which is of great benefit in achieving the unity of good grassroots governance and human rights protection. Here, I would like to make three suggestions.
First, China should take the concept of human rights with Chinese characteristics as a thinking guide. Innovation in grassroots governance is neither baseless assumption by theorists, nor unrestrained actions by grassroots organizations and their staff. Instead, it must be guided by the concept of human rights with Chinese characteristics. In China, the right to survival and to development are basic human rights. Therefore, innovation in grassroots governance must be based on the functions of grassroots organizations, prioritizing the protection of the right to survival and to development at grassroots level. Grassroots governance amidst the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control should focus on the protection of the right to health and to basic living standards, as well as the realization of the rights of the grassroots to participation in and supervision of public affairs at grassroots level.
Second, China should improve the grassroots governance system that combines autonomy, the rule of law and the rule of virtue. China must improve grassroots governance system, including grassroots election, deliberations, transparency, and democratic evaluation systems. It must strengthen policy, financial, and human resources support for grassroots governance, and “promote the implementation of social governance and services at grassroots level, provide more resources to the grassroots organizations, and provide more precise and targeted services”. It must improve the means and methods of grassroots governance to ensure that the grassroots can freely express their wishes, manage their own affairs, and create a happy life for themselves. It must strengthen publicity of rule of law and moral development, improve the grassroots’ awareness of the rule of law and moral standards, enable the masses to actively participate in grassroots governance, and make grassroots governance full of vitality.
Third, China must strengthen the leadership of Party organizations in grassroots governance. At the Fourth Plenary Session of the Party’s 19th National Congress, the CPC proposed “to improve the mechanism of grassroots self-government led by local Party organizations”. To strengthen the leadership of Party organizations in grassroots governance, China must adhere to the values of serving the grassroots, adhere to the mass viewpoint and the mass line, concentrate the wisdom of the grassroots, listen to their opinions, reflect their voices, meet their legitimate needs, and protect their legitimate rights and interests. China must also have a sense of risk and improve the ability of grassroots Party organizations to respond to risks. China must conduct in-depth survey and research, grasp the situation at grassroots level, implement prevention measures, and resolve risk incidents at an early stage. Once a contingency happens, China should be able to deliver a rapid response, maintain grassroots social order, lead the masses as they cope with risks, and maximize protection of the lives and health of the masses. Furthermore, China must strengthen the construction of grassroots Party organizations, optimize the composition of leadership teams, strengthen the education of grassroots Party cadres, boost their governance capabilities, and build a team capable of good governance.
In a word, I believe that the concept of human rights should drive good grassroots governance, which in turn should promote the realization of human rights. This is my view on good grassroots governance and human rights protection, the two major issues in China today, and I’d appreciate your criticism and comments.