Two Republican legislators are supporting legislation that would allow Americans to fight back against China as the coronavirus causes death and disruption across the U.S.
The ‘‘Holding the Chinese Communist Party Accountable for Infecting Americans Act of 2020’’ was introduced Thursday by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas.
The bill comes against a backdrop of allegations, including from Taiwan, that the Chinese government covered up facts in December, as well as a sudden spike in the number of deaths reported in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, after China insisted for weeks its statistics were perfect.
The bill’s goal is to allow Americans to sue China for the economic and personal damage cased by the coronavirus, which Cotton’s office termed the “Wuhan Virus” in the news release announcing the legislation.
It does so by amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow suits against China in this particular instance.
The release said the bill “gives the United States a powerful tool to get China to pay for the damage it has caused: If the United States and China come to an agreement to settle the claims, then the private suits could be dismissed.
“In other words, China can take responsibility and agree to pay for the damage it has caused, or it can face potentially millions of claims in federal court.”
The legislation reads like an indictment of China.
“The Communist Party of China covered up the existence and downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at least as early as December 2019,” it begins. “Chinese Government officials engaged in a campaign to silence and delegitimize doctors, including Dr. Li Wenliang, who were warning their colleagues and others about COVID-19.
“Chinese Government officials ordered the destruction of laboratory samples and research regarding COVID-19 in January 2020. Chinese Government officials have detained or otherwise silenced researchers, journalists, and citizens who attempted to share information that could have proven unflattering to the response of the Chinese Government to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The legislation said that the bill is not about secrecy; it is about the consequences of that secrecy.
“Academic studies have shown that, had appropriate interventions occurred to stop the spread of COVID-19 even just weeks earlier, the spread of COVID-19 would have been severely curtailed,” it said.
“The cover-up of COVID-19 by the Chinese Government (A) has caused significant death, injury, and economic harm in the United States and around the world; and (B) is, at minimum, grossly negligent behavior causing significant injury.”
The legislators said China has to be held accountable for its actions