In history, the human right abuses in China were often condemned internationally, for example the forced labors in Xijiang camps and the crackdown of Hong Kong protests.

But it seems to me that the Western politicians tend to stay silent on the human right abuse due to the Zero-COVID policies of China. From Wuhan to Xi'an and recently Shanghai, many people in China weren't able to get enough food or urgent medical care (for non-COVID diseases). There are separations of Children from their families and animal abuses. See this video (from YouTube, a montage of 100+ video clips and still photos) for more such cases.

I wonder what the differences in nature are between the human right abuse between Zero-COVID policies of China and the issues with Hong Kong and Xijiang, so that the latter resulted in many sanctions on China but the former barely received any condemnations?

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    "what the differences in nature are between" Is it quantitatively on the same level? How many people did not have access to sufficient food in Hong Kong or elsewhere? Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 18:54
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    Sources other than random Twitter feeds would help in supporting the claims of human rights abuses. And who are the "my people" that you are referring to?
    – doneal24
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 20:32
  • @doneal24 I am sorry that was a typo for "many people". I removed the sentence to avoid self-speculation. I added one more video from YouTube.
    – No One
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 22:12
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    HongKong got Western attention because it used to be a western colony and have a lot of connection to the West. Xin Jiang is a minority issue. Both are attention-triggering to western audiences both left and right and are able to net Politicians a lot of points for talking about them. However, ShangHai is just a Chinese city. Western audiences would treat any human right abuses happening there to be a normal occurance and not pay attention. So there is no reason for western politicians to drum up the things that happen there.
    – Faito Dayo
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 1:15
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    A contributing factor might be that many more liberal countries are trying to maintain a delicate balance between protecting the health of its citizens and respecting their freedom (or at least protecting the freedom of those who couldn't care less about others). Condemning draconian measures may make those who want stricter measures (but not quite as strict as China) unhappy, because it's somewhat a rejection of taking steps in that direction, and it may make those who want less strict measures unhappy (with the government), because it validates objecting to pretty much any measures.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 12:29

2 Answers 2


The official number of Covid related deaths is only 4600 in China but almost exactly 1 million in the US so far and China has 3-4 times higher population. China's statistics might not be accurate (for critical reports see reports, the true number of Covid deaths could be much higher in China). Also, some of the US fatalities of Covid would have died from other courses in the mean time, excess death rate is smaller. However, if you believe that the numbers are not too much off that means that China would have managed to avoid up to 3 million deaths in comparison to the US in the last two years. That would be quite an achievement.

We will likely never find out with certainty about the true number of Covid deaths in China, but I would say that saving lives on the order of millions can justify the taken quarantine measures in principle (without the excesses). It even might be seen as a bargain, depending on how exactly you balance personal freedom (to spread germs) and public health solidarity. Some people would actually applaud how China treated Covid so far and would rather stress that while effective, the rest of the world was simply not capable of such a discipline. (Other regions like Japan also did rather well, so it might be more complicated.) On the other hand quarantines put additional stress on people and lower the quality of life especially if done in the very rigid Chinese way.

Additionally, the Chinese vaccines aren't that efficient as the Western ones so keeping strict quarantine rules may still look like the only possibility to avoid a large number of deaths in China unless they want to use other vaccines, which they probably should. Non-Chinese very effective vaccines are currently not officially approved in China.

One open question is why only so few of the elder Chinese people are fully vaccinated. The authoritarian Chinese government would not be able to force elder Chinese to take their vaccine? That's hard to believe.

On the other hand, the currently dominant omicron variant seems to be very infectious but not so fatal as previous variants. The zero cases strategy of the Chinese government might not be sustainable under these circumstances.

In the end, you want to either have an effective vaccine or treatment because otherwise it will be quarantines forever and that might be seen as a too high price to pay in the future. (It's not as if the Chinese population has much say in that.)

That doesn't mean though that China needs to separate children from parents or supply insufficient amounts of food to people during a quarantine. Both is not necessary for keeping the number of Covid infections down and should rightly be condemned. Keeping Covid numbers down in China with the Omicron variant may prove illusory. As soon as any quarantine ends, Covid will come back immediately. The alternatives are only to either live with it or stay under quarantine forever, in which case most likely the overwhelming majority of people would choose to live with the virus.

And related deaths like medical emergencies or suicides during quarantines or starvings during a quarantine in China must be counted towards the number of Covid related deaths as well.

To contrast China's policy:

In the area where I live we never had zero Covid cases during the whole pandemics and people seem to have decided now to live with it with numbers going extremely high now. Approximately 10% (!) of the population was infected at the same time at the peak of the last wave and measures against Covid have lately been canceled lately amidst a Covid surge. Even wearing masks, which is a very cheap and effective measure, is not mandatory anymore except in public transport.

The vaccination rate is reasonably high especially among elders (>90%). Consequently people continue to die from Covid in moderate but significant numbers, but there is no quarantine anymore. The cumulative Covid death rate over the last two years here is about half that of the US, so a bit better but not great. With stronger and longer health measures (like mask mandates for example) very likely lives could have been saved but the costs for that must have been seen as too high, especially lately.


These are not strictly comparable.

Numerous experts and publications have criticized China's zero-covid approach recently but...

  • These measures are at least motivated by keeping people safe and have not worked all that badly. In the overall scheme of things, assuming their numbers are somewhat honest, China has weathered covid rather well. Especially for it being the originating country of the pandemic and after its initial Wuhan outbreak in 2020. People, including the WHO, poo-poohed China for imposing a city wide quarantine in Wuhan in March 2020, but it worked.

  • Health care is a national concern and covid was/is still an evolving disease. Many countries have approached covid in various ways, some with more success than others and not all solutions worked. If sanctions got levied, why not target Florida's De Santis for example?

  • China's problems with implementation, such as ensuring supplies, while regrettable, is not on par with taking a conscious decision to imprison Uyghurs. It is going to be hard to impose strict quarantines on megacities.

  • At the early highpoints of the pandemic in 2020 countries like Italy also brought in similar measures, though I don't know how problematic they were to the people impacted when compared to China. Places like Peru also had rather harsh lockdowns with insufficient support to its people. Australia had some extremely long lockdowns in places.

  • How problematic covid is at this point, especially omicron, depends vaccination rates and quality of vaccines. Countries have to make those decisions for themselves.

  • Last, "human rights abuse", in the context of Covid, is so loaded as a term nowadays, employed at the drop of a hat by antivaccers for example, that it is almost meaningless to try to use it objectively.

Yes, China's zero covid seems a) coercive b) not all that productive at this stage c) not all that well done.

But, no, this should - until something more intentionally negative emerges or until worse problems surface, like starvation - remain a national prerogative.

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    I don't think any country in the western world took "similar measures" to China at any point. They are only really "similar" in that other countries have also had actual lockdowns (while e.g. the US had little to no legal requirement or enforcement for people to stay in their homes, i.e. be locked down, as opposed to just having some restrictions on gatherings and such AFAIK). But China is just on a next level in terms of how restrictive it is and how harshly they enforce it. Not to mention duration contributes to severity: a few-week lockdown isn't really comparable to one lasting months.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 12:43
  • Or until the leader X steps down.
    – user42422
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 19:04

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