Human Rights in China, Globalization and the Spread of SARS:
Lessons from the Epidemic

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Flavelle Building, Room B
78 Queen's Park
Friday October 31, 2003

Between November 2002 and August 2003, 44 Canadians, over 800 Chinese and dozens of others across Asia died from an air-borne disease ultimately traced back to China's southern Guangdong province.  From this epicentre, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, rapidly emerged as an international health threat which underscored our increasingly globalized and interconnected existence.  This symposium hopes to build a better understanding of the global impact of SARS and is dedicated to the memory of those lives taken by the disease.

The conference is open to the public (with the exception of the lunch). There is no cost to attend, and registration is not required.

Opening Remarks

Noah Novogrodsky
Director, International Human Rights Program, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Freedom of Information & Hi-tech Censorship: China's Response to SARS
9:35-10:50 AM

Understanding China's reaction to SARS requires an understanding of how the Chinese government manages information that may be construed as harmful to its authority. This panel will explore how news of SARS spread both within China and globally, what role technology may have played in either hindering or facilitating the free flow of such information, and whether Internet censorship may have ultimately caused the loss of human life.


Richard Owens, Executive Director, Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, University of Toronto


Shanthi  Kalathil
Managing Editor, MIT Journal of Information Technologies and International Development

Xiao Qiang
Director, China Internet Project, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

Erping Zhang
Executive Director, Association for Asian Research

Transparency and Open Government in China
11:00 AM-12:15 PM

Beyond questions surrounding freedom of information, the SARS crisis also exposed larger shortcomings within the echelons of Chinese government. This panel will address issues surrounding domestic political transparency and accountability, and also discuss the function of the international community in promoting greater openness.


Ronald Deibert,
Director, The Citizen Lab, Munk Centre for International Studies.


Victor Falkenheim
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Jeffrey Prescott
Fellow, China Law Center, Yale Law School

Lorraine Spiess
Author, "SARS, Censorship, and the Battle For China's Future", Walrus Magazine

Qiang Sun
Visiting Scholar, Canada-China Scholars Exchange Program, Osgoode Hall Law School

Lunchtime Conversation
12:30-1:45 PM

Flavelle Faculty Lounge. The lunch is by invitation only.

Jan Wong
Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Anna Morgan
Author, "Contagion",  Toronto Life magazine

Public Health and Human Rights
2:00-3:15 PM

In addressing public health emergencies, it is acknowledged that human liberties typically taken for granted may be curtailed. This panel will discuss China's response to SARS from a public health perspective, compare China's reaction to Canada's and assess whether Chinese actions reflect a balanced and "least restrictive" policy.  Questions surrounding quarantine measures, draconian punishment, right to privacy, freedom of movement will also be addressed.


Colleen Flood, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto


Catherine Chalin
Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto

Sara (Meg) Davis
China researcher, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

Helena Nygren-Krug
Health and Human Rights Adviser, World Health Organization

David Zakus
Director, Centre for International Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

The Role of International Law, International Institutions and Globalization
3:30-4:45 PM

The rapid spread of SARS underscored the critical need for international law and institutions to facilitate inter-state cooperation on trans-border issues.  This panel will address China's stance towards the international community-and specifically the World Health Organization.  The panel will also consider the role of NGOs, national centres for disease control and the ways in which international institutions might operate more effectively in the wake of the SARS crisis.


Sujit Choudhry, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto


Obijiofor Aginam
Professor, Department of Law, Carleton University

Jie Cheng
Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Yale Law School

Yanzhong Huang
Professor, Whitehead School of Diplomacy, Seton Hall University

Michael Szonyi
Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto

This symposium is sponsored by the International Human Rights Program, The Centre for Innovation Law & Policy, and the Ethics, Society & Law Program at Trinity College

For additional information, please contact Robert Blitt at