During the outbreak of COVID-19 in China this year, the nation’s law firms came of age in their responses to supporting those who held the frontlines in the battle against the deadly virus. Charlie Wu explores the sense of social responsibility shown by firms and lawyers in the nation’s hour of need
As the Chinese saying goes: “When disaster strikes, help can come from all sides.” In recent months, the progress of prevention and control of the COVID-19 virus has weighed on the hearts and minds of everyone, and working together to fight against the outbreak has become a common responsibility for society.
China Business Law Journal has donated RMB100,000 (US$14,150) to Shanghai Charity Foundation and Huashan Hospital to help the people on the frontline against this pandemic. Many law firms and corporations have extended their helping hands as well.
Law firms have responded positively to the call of “standing together to fight against the pandemic”, demonstrating a strong sense of social responsibility as legal practitioners. In order to shine a light on their considerable efforts, China Business Law Journal’s editorial team has compiled the ideas and actions of law firms towards the prevention and control of COVID-19, demonstrating their dedication and practical support during these challenging times.
The increasing social responsibility of Chinese law firms is an important indicator of the sustainable development of the nation’s legal market. As Bai Gang, chief partner of Wanhuida Intellectual Property Agency, says, COVID-19 has shown that people who unite together are invincible.
“No one, or a company, or even a country can stand away from this alone,” says Bai. “In the current situation, people are supporting and helping each other across regions, industries, races and national boundaries. Helping others is also helping ourselves, and shouldering the responsibility together is the fundamental spirit of charity.
Funds and medical supplies are undoubtedly one of the most important elements in the pandemic prevention process. As law firms raise money to fight COVID-19, many of them are establishing charitable foundations in their own names.
AllBright Law Offices, for example, used its foundation to purchase medical supplies abroad, and donated these to the worst-hit areas. As of 6 February, AllBright had raised a total of RMB4.69 million to help Wuhan province. This included providing disposable medical gloves, goggles, protective suits and other materials to alleviate the problem of a lack of funds and medical supplies at the frontline.
Grandall Law Firm also used its foundation to donate 10,000 boxes of anti-infection drugs worth about RMB1 million to the area of the first outbreak. The drug is recommended by the Wuhan Union Hospital in its guidelines for the treatment of severe infections.
With the assistance of the manufacturer, the Grandall Public Welfare Fund donated the drugs through the Red Cross Foundation of Huanggang city, Hubei province. In all, Grandall and its staff have donated more than RMB3.45 million.
After making the first donation to Wuhan University’s Zhongnan Hospital on 25 January, Han Kun Law Offices launched a second round of donation initiatives for all staff on 2 February, raising a total of RMB2.88 million. The donations were co-ordinated by the “YouChange rural prevention support team”, a rural prevention charity foundation of YouChange, which was set up specifically to combat COVID-19. The medical materials such as ventilators, masks and protective suits purchased by them were sent to 38 medical institutions and voluntary organizations.
Similarly, law firms like AnJie, Boss & Young Attorneys at Law and King & Wood Mallesons all donated money and medical materials to the affected areas through their foundations. This greatly eased the financial and material constraints at the frontline of the pandemic.
During the outbreak, people were most concerned about Wuhan, which was at the epicentre. The construction of Huoshenshan Hospital and Leishenshan Hospital became centres of attention for an anxious public. These two hospitals were successfully built in 10 days and became a perfect example for the term “China speed”, which has described the blistering pace of expansion by China’s economy in the past decades.
After Wuhan was locked down, many lawyers in the province rushed to the frontline, using their professional knowledge to assist in the construction of the hospitals, and helping people who were trapped in this outbreak.
For example, Wang Weiqi and Yin Junlun, from the Wuhan Branch of Dentons, provided services such as contract review and legal consultation for Leishenshan Hospital. East & Concord Partners also provided legal services for the two hospitals, as well as the main construction parties, equipment suppliers and other clients.
“Success begins with helping others to succeed,” says Li Dajin, director of East & Concord Partners. “And when COVID-19 came, this concept was reflected in our practice. It is great that ordinary people can do what they should do; even the smallest efforts can be given without hesitation when others need it.”
After completion of the hospitals, Sanyou Intellectual Property Agency donated RMB1 million to Wuhan Charity Federation for the purchase of urgently needed medical resources.
An increasingly severe situation with medical supplies, especially masks and medicines, became one of the biggest challenges on the COVID-19 prevention battlefield.
Lantai Partners heard that more than 15,000 employees of Jointown Pharmaceutical Group had kept working to ensure the timely supply of medicines and prevention materials needed by local medical institutions. Western medicine, Chinese medicine and equipment were the main products of the company. Lantai decided to raise funds for Jointown to ensure the smooth production and distribution of these medical materials.
At that time, the Chengdu office of Duan & Duan Law Firm was the bankruptcy administrator of a mask manufacturing company. Duan & Duan took over the management of the company by law, and obtained permission from the court to decide on the recovery of mask production before the Chinese festivals. Duan & Duan’s lawyers used the company’s professional venues, facilities, personnel and channels to facilitate negotiations with the mask manufacturer. The company under bankruptcy restarted mask production, which increased the capacity of medical supplies.
Keeping supply lines open
Logistics is the lifeline to support the fight against COVID-19. In addition to medical staff who are in the frontline of the battle, there is a group of special people who keep supply lines open. They are couriers, and it is because of their dedication that medical supplies could be transported as needed to medical staff. The safety of the couriers tugged at the heartstrings of DOCVIT Law Firm, which sent prevention and living supplies to delivery workers of SF Express.
As a gesture of respect to these logistics workers and their hard work, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) urgently purchased 1,680 3M medical protective suits and delivered them to Hubei branch of SF Express. Teng Haidi, a partner at KWM’s Shenzhen Office, says: “We were touched by the people we have joined hands with. The selfless work of logistics workers and the customs officers were all for one common goal – to defeat COVID-19 as soon as possible.”
Young lawyers step up
The legal sector in China is busy and competitive, and young lawyers are the rising stars. Zhang Jincheng, director and senior partner of SG & Co PRC Lawyers, believes that as the backbone of the future legal market, young lawyers also need to contribute to society while fulfilling their professional work.
As such, the young lawyers at SG & Co are encouraged to participate in community service. “In all kinds of public welfare actions, knowing how to give is conducive to cultivating their humanistic feelings and sense of responsibility so that young lawyers can be more determined and confident on their professional career paths,” says Zhang. SG & Co lawyers provided legal advice, assistance and mediation to disputes related to the outbreak. They also provided remote internship guidance and practice sharing for law students who were unable to return to school. Jin Mao Law Firm donated to the Shanghai Charity Foundation, China Red Cross Foundation, Hubei Charity Federation and other charity organizations.
In addition, 13 young lawyers of the firm signed up for a COVID-19 prevention and control emergency volunteer service in Shanghai Huangpu district. They provided services for groups of people working in healthcare, disease control, public security, community work, and recovered patients and their families, and other people involved in fighting the outbreak.
Raising funds and medical supplies for the affected areas during the outbreak, Boss & Young Attorneys at Law has also incorporated social responsibility into their daily work. They provided free professional legal services for those affected in society, and actively explored ways to resolve legal problems during the outbreak. Boss & Young also recruited 29 young lawyers and assistants to participate in a volunteer programme for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in Shanghai Huangpu district.
The following firms (in alphabetical order) were involved in some form or charitable or pro bono work to assist during the COVID-19 outbreak: AllBright Law Offices, AnJie Law Firm, Anli Partners, Baker McKenzie FenXun, Boss & Young Attorneys at Law, Broad & Bright, Chance Bridge Partners, Chen & Co Law Firm, China Commercial Law Firm, City Development Law Firm, Co-effort Law Firm, DHH Law Firm, Dentons, DOCVIT Law Firm, Duan & Duan Law Firm, East & Concord Partners, ETR Law Firm, Grandall Law Firm, Guantao Law Firm, Han Kun Law Offices, Han Yi Law Offices, Hui Ye Law Firm, Hylands Law Firm, Jin Mao Law Firm, Jingtian & Gongcheng, JunHe, Kangda Law Firm, King & Wood Mallesons, Lanbai Law Firm, Landing Law Offices, Lantai Partners, Liu Shen & Associates, Llinks Law Offices, Merits & Tree Law Offices, PW & Partners, Sanyou Intellectual Property Agency, SG & Co PRC Lawyers, Sunshine Law Firm, T&C Law Firm, Tahota Law Firm, TianTong Law Firm, Tian Yuan Law Firm, V&T Law Firm, Wang Jing & GH Law Firm, Wanhuida Intellectual Property, Wan Yi Law Firm, Wincon Law Firm, Wintell & Co, Zhenghan Law Firm, Zhihe Partners, and Zhonglun W&D Law Firm.
Vanguard of enterprises
Major companies in China and their legal departments have taken the lead in practising their social responsibility during the pandemic by leveraging their industry strengths and strong organizational capabilities
Agile Group, a well-known Chinese property developer, donated RMB10 million (US$1.4 million) to Wuhan Charity Federation on 5 February, and launched a pandemic relief fund with a total of RMB30 million on 20 February, of which RMB8.7 million will be donated to Jiangxia and Caidian districts, Donghu Development Zone in Wuhan, as well as nine medical institutions in Huanggang, Xiangyang and Jingzhou. The funds aim to rescue families affected by the pandemic, subsidize frontline medical workers, and improve medical equipment supply in pandemic prevention institutions.
Apart from property development, Agile also engages in environmental protection, education, scientific innovation, capital investment, etc. Its subsidiary, Choya Education Group, opened nearly 200 education projects for the children of frontline medical workers in COVID-19-designated hospitals in Wuhan, and for the children of those who came from other places to support Wuhan, and waived their tuition fees for the spring semester of 2020.
APP China, the subsidiary of Asian paper producer giant Sinar Mas Group, announced at the end of January it would donate RMB100 million, and “Qingfeng” sanitary wipes worth RMB350,000, which would be allocated to Wuhan, Xiaogan, Huanggang in Hubei province, and other severely affected provinces and cities. These funds will support emergency treatment and disease prevention, and the purchase of medical supplies in hospitals, disease control centres and communities.
Teguh Ganda Widjaja (Oei Tjie Goan), the founder of the parent company, Sinar Mas Group, is an Indonesian Chinese entrepreneur. The company’s Chinese subsidiary took the lead in responding to the donation appeals from the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese.
Budweiser China donated RMB10 million to the Wuhan Hanyang District Charity Federation at the beginning of the outbreak, including RMB5 million in cash, medical supplies worth RMB4 million, and emergency purified water worth RMB1 million.
Apart from donations, Budweiser China supported the construction of Leishenshan Hospital, a temporary hospital built especially for receiving more COVID-19 patients. After learning that two materials for chlorine dioxide generators were urgently needed for the construction of hospital, and realizing these were available in Budweiser factories nearby, Budweiser China immediately agreed to provide the materials for free, and arranged the delivery through factory personnel on duty.
Danone, a global food and beverage company, set up a special fund of €250 million (US$270.3 million) during the pandemic. This fund is used for employee protection, maintenance of production operations, and support for suppliers, distributors, storage and transportation agencies, and other related parties in the enterprise ecosystem.
Danone China donated cash, anti-pandemic supplies and Danone products worth RMB23 million in total to the severely affected regions and other places in need. This included medical masks and gloves, three negative pressure ambulances, one artificial lung support system, and Danone’s vitamin beverage, Mizone (worth more than RMB15 million).
Danone also announced that employees’ normal income would not be affected due to protection, treatment or family care during the pandemic, and the company pledged it would not lay off employees because of the pandemic.
Focus Media, the largest inner-building advertising company in China, made its own public service advertisements and carried out a nationwide pandemic prevention campaign on more than 700,000 LCD screens across China.
Focus Media also donated supplies and cash to areas affected by the pandemic, and associated rescue medical teams, including the donation of ventilators, electronic thermometers, infrared thermometers, masks, hand sanitizers and other medical supplies to hospitals in Hubei province.
As of the end of March, Juneyao Airlines and its parent company, JuneYao Group, purchased and donated anti-pandemic supplies including 500 ventilators, 172,404 sets of disposable protective suits, 7,000 sets of reusable protective suits, 100,000 sets of disposable isolation suits, 393,055 medical masks, 77,700 N95 masks, 5,467 pairs of goggles, 260,000 surgical caps, and 95 frontal temperature guns.
These supplies were sent to Wuhan, Yichang, Xiangyang, Huanggang, Xiaogan in Hubei province, and Wenzhou, Taizhou, Quzhou in Zhejiang province, as well as Huaibei (Anhui), Wuxi (Jiangsu), Zhengzhou (Henan), Xinyang (Henan), and other parts of China.
McDonald’s donated RMB1 million to the Wuhan Charity Federation in the early days of the outbreak. Its restaurants within Hubei province have provided more than 73,000 free meals to pandemic fighters, and more than 110,000 charity meals nationwide. In Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, McDonald’s has opened five charity restaurants to provide free food delivery services for frontline medical workers and other pandemic fighters.
On the premise of ensuring virus-free services, nearly 3,000 restaurants maintained operations throughout the country, and delivery services were provided normally during the pandemic. During the gravest moments of the pandemic, nearly 1,500 hospitals across the country were able to order, and meals were delivered, as normal.
McDonald’s also purchased and imported 200,000 medical masks, and donated to 11 provincial, municipal and community hospitals in Wuhan. In addition, the company donated nearly 2,000 pairs of goggles to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, where most of the infected were treated at the early stage of the outbreak.
Tsinghua Tongfang, a well-known enterprise in China’s information industry, along with its subsidiaries in different fields, made good use of their respective products and specialties to support the fight against the pandemic. Its subsidiary, Chongqing Trust, set up a special charitable trust to help medical staff and patients on the frontline of pandemic prevention and control in Hubei and other places, and donated RMB10 million along with the first batch of trust companies that made donations.
After receiving the message for help, Tsinghua Tongfang promptly transferred 15 sets of its ventilation air-conditioning units to help the construction of Wuhan Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals, for air purification in the intensive care wards and other areas.
At the same time, subsidiary Aegon THTF Life Insurance opened a green claim channel and donated RMB1 million, and subsidiary Tongfang PC donated 100 sets of IT equipment for emergency medical engineering to the Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre in Huanggang city, another outbreak centre in Hubei province.
Subsidiary Nuctech helped China customs achieve rapid rescue materials monitoring and clearance, and its product, a terahertz infrared security inspection instrument, was used to assist Beijing Metro in contactless temperature measurement. Meanwhile, in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiangtan, Yangzhou and other places, Nuctech’s industrial high-power radiation processing system is carrying out radiation sterilization for medical equipment, masks, protective clothing and other medical protective equipment before leaving the factory, free of charge.
Since 1 February, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (cnki.net), powered by Tongfang Knowledge Network Technology, has opened several free services such as off-campus roaming services for university/vocational education users, CNKI E-Study and so on, to support studies and research into the pandemic.
Among them, the legal department of cnki.net provides several legal databases, document databases and smart office systems for the legal industry free of charge, to guarantee comprehensive legal knowledge services.
Sinochem International initiated a voluntary donation to all employees within three days, and raised RMB 237,875 to provide charity meals to the medical staff working in the ICU of Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, one of the hospitals designated for COVID-19 patients.
Yangnong Chemical Group, a subsidiary of Sinochem, donated 116 tons of sodium hypochlorite, a raw material for disinfectant, which can meet the demand of environmental disinfection usage up to 23,200 tons. The group also raised RMB 835,179.11, which was donated to Yangzhou Charity Federation, as well as charity federation and red cross society where each of its subsidiary is located, to help fight against the pandemic.
Zhonglan Hongyuan New Energy Materials, a subsidiary of Sinochem located in Hubei, donated 24 sets of half-face respirators to a hospital in Luotian county of Huanggang, Hubei.
In addition, Sinochem has given full play to its advantages as a multinational enterprise. Its overseas subsidiary Elix Polymers (ELIX) and Sinochem Japan purchased pandemic prevention supplies in Spain and Japan, respectively, including disposable protective gloves, FFP2/FPP3 masks, goggles, etc., which were shipped to Beijing in February. On 25 March, Sinochem supported 7,565 masks to ELIX.
Wu Zhixiang, co-chairman of online travel service provider Tongcheng-Elong, donated RMB1 million to the Red Cross Society of China’s Suzhou branch, which is targeted for awarding Suzhou doctors going to Hubei to assist. Tongcheng-Elong purchased one million masks and a large number of protective suits, distributing them freely at several train stations to facilitate safe travel.
The company has also launched self-service inquiries and SMS alert services regarding flights and trains taken by people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and offered free online medical consultations with joint effort from Haodf.com, a Chinese healthcare community platform.
Meanwhile, the company also announced that the validity of its “Heijing VIP” programme is extended and the membership will be free of charge for all medical workers in mainland China for one year.
Xiaomi Corporation has made full use of its logistics and warehousing advantages to deliver supplies. After Wuhan’s lockdown, when the city was short of medical supplies, Xiaomi immediately checked the medical supplies inventory of Xiaomi Youpin, its e-commerce platform.
Its first batch of medical supplies (N95 masks, medical masks and thermometers) were shipped from multiple warehouses across the country on Luna New Year’s Eve and arrived in Wuhan the next day.
In terms of support to foreign countries, Xiaomi has also donated pandemic prevention supplies to France, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Poland, Romania and other countries.
In gratitude for the dedication of frontline medical workers, Xiaomi’s Wuhan headquarters, together with Kingsoft Office Software’s Wuhan branch, among other companies, have launched a preferential employment scheme for children of medical workers, which provides nearly 1,000 jobs and promises to give priority to children of anti-pandemic medical workers under the same conditions.
As a technology company, Xiaomi joined hands with Huazhong Numerical Control in Wuhan to build a more accurate infrared body temperature detection system, which solves the problem of high false alarm rates and improves pandemic prevention and control. Xiaomi also launched an APP with other mobile manufacturers to provide data about confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, to facilitate the public in identifying themselves when they have close contact to those cases.
Cosco Shipping Ports
Cosco Shipping Ports (CSP) donated a batch of N95 surgical masks to the Central Hospital of Wuhan on 13 February, and then donated 1,200 more 3M 1860 medical masks on 19 February, and delivered them all to Tongji Hospital in Wuhan.
The multinational’s subsidiary, CSP Chancay Peru, provided subsistence goods such as chicken, eggs and canned fish worth US$63,000 to 4,100 low-income families in the Chancay port area. China Railway No. 10 Engineering Group, the construction party of the port, also participated in this event.
In addition, staff of CSP Zeebrugge donated 52 disposable medical protective suits to the Sint-Jan Hospital in Bruges, Belgium, where the company is located. Sint-Jan is the largest public hospital in Bruges and the city’s main hospital for treating COVID-19 patients.
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