Indian NGO bashing China over epidemic not mainstream voice: expert

By Hu Yuwei and Zhao Juecheng Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/7 12:10:16

Migrant labourers walk to their villages during the lockdown in New Delhi, India, March 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Javed Dar)

The "China-bashing" complaint led by US lawyers and lawmakers now has a new member - an Indian association that is seeking compensation from China for the spread of the novel coronavirus. Experts say such moves reflect neither China's effort in fighting COVID-19 nor mainstream Indian voices, but only part of a politics-charged opinion warfare.

The complaint was jointly filed by the All India Bar Association and International Council of Jurists (ICJ) - two NGOs who share the same president - and submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Saturday over China's "legal responsibility" for "causing grave offenses against humanity." It alleges the novel coronavirus was released by the Wuhan Virology Institute.

The so-called appeals of Indian organizations to the UNHRC against China are absurd and unworthy of any response, spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India said on Wednesday, noting that China's anti-epidemic achievements are evident, and the international community has a broad consensus, said the spokesperson.

The complaint does not meet the UNHRC's filing criteria because it is not a standard legal document considering its key evidence mainly comes from media reports, including one that accuses China of "developing biological weapons," Mao Junxiang, executive director and professor at the Human Rights Studies Center at Central South University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Even if it was accepted, the UNHRC has no authority to make a legal decision against any country as it is an inter-governmental body made up of 47 members, not a global judicial body with judicial power, Mao said.

The petition seeks an unspecified amount of reparations from China for having caused "serious physical, psychological, economic, and social harm" to UNHRC member-nations, particularly India, by "unleashing COVID-19 on the world through a carefully assembled biological weapon that aimed at crippling major countries in the world leaving only China as the beneficiary," Indian media reported.

Experts say this is part of a public opinion warfare running through the global political arena.

Rather than a prosecution that could have legal consequences, analysts said the complaints serve as a tool to deflect domestic dissent in India and to pass the buck to cover up inefficient measures in controlling the epidemic in foreign countries.

The accusations are based on groundless and unproven evidence, ranging from China's "negligence" to surreptitious development of "a biological weapon capable of mass destruction of mankind," which obscures the fact that the origin of the virus remains unknown, experts say.

It has angered many Chinese who have urged the UNHRC to abandon the "racist conspiracies."

"Scientifically, it takes a process, especially for an unprecedented infectious disease, to recognize the virus, investigate the epidemiology, and eventually report such an epidemic globally as a potential public health emergency," Mao said. 

"We identified on January 8, and uploaded five novel coronavirus whole genome sequences on January 11, and immediately shared the data with other countries and the World Health Organization (WHO). The charge in the complaint cannot stand here," Mao said.

China has fulfilled its international obligations in the control and treatment of COVID -19. Meanwhile, other countries failed to implement effective measures to control the epidemic in the two months following the outbreak in China, leading to the rapid outbreak in a short time, which should prompt a review of their actions in violation of obligations under international human rights conventions, Mao suggested.

Analysts have also warned the complaints should not represent mainstream voices of either the Indian public nor their government as both are non-governmental bodies.

Indians have shown their support on different occasions for China's fight against the virus. For example, India's Confederation of Young Leaders (CYL) and Indian Institute of Photography jointly organized a special prayer meeting for China in February, with hundreds of Indian youth attending, Xinhua News Agency reported.

In early February, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his country greatly appreciated China's measures in fighting the pandemic and was willing to provide support and assistance to China.

During a roundtable discussion in New Delhi, the Indian business community lauded the Chinese government's efforts in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic and expressed solidarity with China.

Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, tweeted on February 28, "My sincere thanks to Indian friends from the business community for their support and solidarity to Chinese people fighting against COVID-19. Resuming normal personnel and trade exchanges at an early date serves the interests of our two peoples," Xinhua reported.

D. Raja, General Secretary of the Communist Party of India, and Indian film star Aamir Khan have joined a group to produce videos supporting China and how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

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