Since the previous pandemics — the Marseille plague in 1720, Asiatic cholera in 1820, Spanish flu in 1918 — modern medicine has advanced to the level of gene and cell therapy, and with early preparation could easily prevent many deaths — as Taiwan has done with COVID-19.
However, the lack of freedom of expression in China and political calculation on the part of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to deny, delay and deceive about the virus’ origin and risks of human-to-human transmission, resulted in the loss of precious time to prevent its spread.
The world has suffered tremendously from the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 2.5 million cases confirmed and more than 178,000 deaths. The US tops the charts with more than 45,000 deaths. Millions of lives are threatened and trillions of US dollars of economic activity have been lost, as the economy has ground to a halt.
Millions of people living from paycheck to paycheck have lost their income. Many families have lost their loved ones and breadwinners. Sad stories abound.
Derrick Smith, a nurse treating COVID-19 patients at a hospital in New York City, told CNN on April 11 of the tragic last words of a man he was about to place on a ventilator: “Who’s going to pay for it?”
“They were last words I’ll never forget,” Smith said.
On April 12, the New York Times reported that Li Jie, a 37- year-old biostatistician at US drug company Biogen was infected by her boss who had gone to a leadership meeting on Feb. 26 and 27.
After falling ill with flu-like symptoms, Li returned to Beijing with her husband and son, leaving behind the life they had built in the US over 15 years.
“They must have been desperate,” said William Meeker, an Iowa State University statistics professor who had worked closely with Li’s husband, Hong Yili.
In China, authorities investigated Li for “obstructing the prevention of infectious diseases,” for which she could be sentenced up to seven years in prison. Although she could have sued her employer for not protecting her from COVID-19 at the office, Biogen fired her.
The evil nature of an oppressive CCP government has caused this epidemic to spread quickly and afar. Due to the lack of transparency and the unreliable statistics from the Chinese government, the sudden onset of COVID-19 in many countries has caught governments off guard. Now the damage has been done and many countries are still struggling to flatten the curve, so as not to overburden their healthcare systems.
However, it is not too early to ask the right questions to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. Given the world’s advanced economies and modern medicine, together with an international watchdog — the WHO — how can a pandemic become so bad as to have 20 percent of the world’s population under lockdown?
The most serious scientific question is whether the virus is gene-edited. If this proves to be true, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and the CCP officers responsible for developing this biological weapon must be charged with war crimes at the International Criminal Court for knowingly or unknowingly killing so many people.
Even if the virus is not synthetic, the CCP government knowingly delayed the release of vital information and played down the seriousness of the problem, and it must be held accountable.
The international community should unite to file a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice against Xi and CCP government.
If China is unwilling to pay compensation for trillions of US dollars of damage to the global economy, the world should request his resignation, and demand a new constitution to ensure democracy in China and that its officials are elected by the people just as Hong Kongers have demanded.
Democracy and national health programs can work well against a pandemic as clearly demonstrated by the Taiwanese government. China should also not block Taiwan’s membership in the WHO, the UN and other international organizations, to strengthen the world’s safety net, instead of being constantly compromised by the irresponsible acts of autocratic governments.
Health is a human right. China has violated human rights on a pandemic scale. To demand justice by giving punishment to fit the crime should be the first business after the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under control.
James Hsu is a retired National Cheng Kung University physics professor and a member and former president of the North America Taiwanese Professors’ Association.
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