A new GOP-led Senate bill would strip the Chinese government of its sovereign immunity and allow U.S. citizens to sue China in federal court for damages over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Civil Justice for Victims of COVID-19 Act, introduced on Monday, would allow states and U.S. citizens to bring federal lawsuits over the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged role in covering up and exacerbating the global coronavirus pandemic. The GOP bill is sponsored by Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona and co-sponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Mike Rounds of South Dakota. The bill incorporates similar stand-alone legislation that had been pushed by McSally, Blackburn, Hawley, and Cotton aimed at holding China accountable.
It was reported in April that the U.S. intelligence community believes the Chinese Communist Party downplayed the severity of the initial coronavirus outbreak and that China continues to mislead about the infection rate and death toll inside its borders. Beijing has denied orchestrating a cover-up of its coronavirus response. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have also accused China of carrying out cyberattacks against U.S. institutions to steal coronavirus vaccine research.
“Americans who have been victimized by the lies and deceit of the Chinese Communist Party — to include those who lost loved ones, suffered business losses, or were personally harmed due to COVID-19 — deserve the opportunity to hold China accountable and to demand just compensation,” McSally said in a statement. “Our bill will empower Americans to do just that by providing them with the legal tools necessary to sue the Chinese government in federal court for creating and worsening the COVID-19 pandemic. As the death toll and financial losses of COVID-19 mount, China should be forced to pay the costs of these damages to the American people.”
There is strong evidence that China covered up the coronavirus’s spread, muzzled whistleblowers, intimidated doctors, misled the World Health Organization, and blocked outside health experts. China knew by late 2019 that human-to-human transmission was occurring, but on Jan. 14, the WHO tweeted: “Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
The Trump administration said it would cut off WHO’s U.S. funding, effective next summer.
The China bill is similar to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, a 2016 bill that was enacted over a veto by former President Barack Obama. The law empowered the families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to continue their civil lawsuits against Saudi Arabia in federal court and increased the ability of U.S. citizens to sue foreign nations over their support for terrorism.
The new legislation, if passed, would allow federal courts to listen to and rule on claims alleging that China’s government bears responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic, strip China of its sovereign immunity due to actions (and inaction) that made the pandemic worse, and empower federal courts to impose freezes and seizures of Chinese assets.
The text of the bill states, in part, that it aims “to strip foreign sovereign immunity of certain foreign states to secure justice for victims of novel coronavirus in the United States.”
The “cause of action” outlined in the bill would encompass “any citizen or resident of the United States injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of any reckless action or omission (including a conscious disregard of the need to report information promptly or deliberately hiding relevant information) of a foreign state, or of any official, employee, or agent of that foreign state … that caused or substantially contributed to the COVID–19 global pandemic in the United States.” Those affected “may sue therefore in any appropriate district court of the United States and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney’s fees.”
The bill would allow state attorneys general to bring such lawsuits against China through the federal court system.
If passed, the legislation would represent a further ramping up of U.S. efforts aimed at imposing costs upon the Chinese government for its actions on the world stage.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced sanctions, including the denial of travel visas, aimed at Chinese Communist Party officials who the U.S. believes have been involved in carrying out human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China. The U.S. also took actions against China following its takeover of Hong Kong through the imposition of a “national security” law.
The Justice Department’s China Initiative aims to combat both Chinese espionage and its Thousand Talents Program, suspected of being geared toward stealing research, and the U.S. has arrested and charged a number of scientists, including Harvard’s chemistry department chairman, Charles Lieber. The agency charged Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in a global racketeering scheme earlier this year.
In June, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as “national security threats,” while the Pentagon named Huawei as one of 20 Chinese companies operating in the U.S. with direct ties to the Chinese government’s People’s Liberation Army.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Attorney General William Barr have all given speeches in recent weeks warning of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Author: Jerry Dunleavy
Source: Washington Examiner: GOP bill would allow people to sue China over coronavirus ‘deceit’