COVID-19 Emergency Measures and the Impending Authoritarian Pandemic

Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 1-33, 2020, DOI:10.1093/jlb/lsaa064

University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2020/048

1 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2020 Last revised: 6 Nov 2020

See all articles by Stephen Thomson

Stephen Thomson

City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - School of Law

Eric C. Ip

The University of Hong Kong

Date Written: September 29, 2020

Abstract

COVID-19 has brought the world grinding to a halt. As of early August 2020, the greatest public health emergency of the century thus far has registered almost 20 million infected people and claimed over 730,000 lives across all inhabited continents, bringing public health systems to their knees, and causing shutdowns of borders and lockdowns of cities, regions, and even nations unprecedented in the modern era. Yet, as this Article demonstrates—with diverse examples drawn from across the world—there are unmistakable regressions into authoritarianism in governmental efforts to contain the virus. Despite the unprecedented nature of this challenge, there is no sound justification for systemic erosion of rights-protective democratic ideals and institutions beyond that which is strictly demanded by the exigencies of the pandemic. A Wuhan-inspired all-or-nothing approach to viral containment sets a dangerous precedent for future pandemics and disasters, with the global copycat response indicating an impending ‘pandemic’ of a different sort, that of authoritarianization. With a gratuitous toll being inflicted on democracy, civil liberties, fundamental freedoms, healthcare ethics, and human dignity, this has the potential to unleash humanitarian crises no less devastating than COVID-19 in the long run.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, democracy, human rights, authoritarianism, governance, regulation, public health, public health law, rule of law, World Health Organization, China

Suggested Citation

Thomson, Stephen and Ip, Eric C., COVID-19 Emergency Measures and the Impending Authoritarian Pandemic (September 29, 2020). Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 1-33, 2020, DOI:10.1093/jlb/lsaa064, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2020/048, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3701596

Stephen Thomson (Contact Author)

City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - School of Law ( email )

5/F Yeung Kin Man Academic Building
Tat Chee Avenue
Hong Kong, Kowloon
Hong Kong

Eric C. Ip

The University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

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