Zhang Xuezhong to NPC: The Wuhan pandemic reveals failure of the Chinese system (II)
by Zhang Xuezhong

The management of the coronavirus epidemic was far from success that is being propagated in China and in many countries. The silence, the censorship, the neglect of the healthcare of the population, the seizure and stealing of medical material decrees "a complete failure". The urgency of a "modern" and democratic system of government. The second part of the open letter of the constitutionalist and human rights hero.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) - The outbreak of the pandemic, the censorship of news, the neglect of people's healthcare, the seizure and the stealing of medical material show not the "success" of the "Chinese model", like many in China and abroad are touting, but its exact opposite: "a complete failure". This is the opinion of the constitutionalist Zhang Xuezhong. The root of this disaster lies in the fact that the Chinese system of government is antiquated and pre-modern, and needs a democratic structure and constitution. For publishing his open letter to the delegates of the National People's Congress, which is taking place in Beijing, Zhang suffered interrogations and censorship. Here we publish excerpts from the second part of his open letter. For the first one, see here.

Under this pre-modern system, the power of public officials lacks even the most minimal restrictions and constraints, which makes them both abuse their power for their own self-interest and at the same time neglect to fulfill their duties with respect to the vital interests of the public, and even their life safety; the widespread corruption of officials and the utter collapse of social governance have therefore followed, inexorably, as a result.

The outbreak and spread of the epidemic illustrate the problem very well. When responding to public health crises, government that makes full and timely information known to the public can help the public make safe and reasonable choices about their conduct and living arrangements, which is key to avoiding an escalation of the crisis.

However, the logic of informing the public as a rational response to crises is diametrically opposed and incompatible with the logic of social control in pre-modern systems of government.

Judging from the existing public reports, the Wuhan local government not only concealed the epidemic from the public for a long time, but also severely suppressed citizens who revealed information about the epidemic. Since January 3, 2020, China’s foreign affairs agencies frequently notified the U.S. government about the epidemic, but the disease control departments did not simultaneously notify the people of our country: such an irresponsible attitude towards the safety of the lives of their own people is rare in the world!

On the other hand, for a long time after the earliest known cases appeared, there were few independent professional media to investigate and report on the outbreak, nor did medical professionals provide independent professional advice to the public, nor were social welfare organizations able to play a role. This is in no way to say that China does not have good journalists, good doctors, or citizens who love social welfare; it only shows that the government’s long-term tight control of society and the populace has almost completely destroyed the organizational and self-help capabilities of Chinese society. In the 22 days before the closure of the city, the Wuhan government was still investigating and punishing citizens who had shared information about the epidemic (including Dr. Li Wenliang, who sadly passed away), demonstrating just how strict and despotic the government’s suppression of society is.

After the epidemic broke out in Wuhan, the local government’s inefficient, incompetent, and careless response also attracted worldwide attention. After Wuhan “closed the city,” a large number of suspected patients could not be tested and effectively isolated in a timely manner, and a large number of people who were actually infected could not be treated in a timely manner. When the frontline medical staff took great risks to fight the epidemic, governments at all levels which ordinarily brag about their achievements, were actually unable to provide them with even the most basic level of logistical support. During the duration of the epidemic, the governments of various regions took advantage of their neighbors’ separatist-style “self-protection” actions and intercepted each other’s materials; a large number of human rights violations occurred in various places; as well as countless humanitarian disasters throughout the epidemic area, which fully made clear that the past 70 years, whether in terms of national construction or social governance, has been a complete and total failure.

At present, China urgently needs to replace the current extremely backward and unjust pre-modern system of government with a modern form of government based on the political principles of popular sovereignty, social autonomy, competition among political parties, separation of powers (checks and balances), judicial independence, and press freedom, among others, in order to implement civil rights, protect people’s livelihood, and realize the peaceful transition of national politics and the modernization of social governance. This means that it is necessary to replace the current pseudo-constitution with a genuine constitution that reflects the political will of all citizens.