Two US lawmakers Thursday announced to introduce a legislation in the Congress that would allow Americans to sue China in the federal court to recover damages for death, injury, and economic harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Introduced by Senator Tom Cotton in the Senate and Congressman Dan Crenshaw in House of Representatives, the legislation, if passed and signed into law, would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to create a narrow exception for damages caused by China's handling of the outbreak
Modelled after the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which 97 members of the Senate had voted in favour of in 2016, the bill makes clear that that covering up the virus and causing it to spread faster or further than it otherwise would have can be considered a tortious act.
It also gives the US 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, the bill proposes.
"By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe," Cotton said.
"Their decision to cover up the virus led to thousands of needless deaths and untold economic harm. It's only appropriate that we hold the Chinese government accountable for the damage it has caused," Cotton added.
"We need to hold the Chinese government accountable for their malicious lies and coverup that allowed the coronavirus to spread across the world," alleged Crenshaw.
"The communist regime expelled journalists, silenced whistleblowers, and withheld vital information that delayed the global response to the pandemic. Simply put: their actions cost American lives and livelihoods. This bill will help ensure China's actions are not without consequences," he said.
Meanwhile, Congressman Michael McCaul, lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), along with 16 Republican members of the committee, in a letter urged President Donald Trump to condition Fiscal Year 2020 voluntary contributions to the WHO on the resignation of Director-General Tedros.
"We have lost faith in Director-General Tedros' ability to lead the World Health Organization. We understand, and value, the vital role that the WHO plays around the world, especially in acute humanitarian settings," the lawmakers said.
At times, the WHO is the only organization working on the ground in the worst places in the world, and the US should continue to support this important work, they wrote.
"However, it is imperative that we act swiftly to ensure the impartiality, transparency, and legitimacy of this valuable institution. In light of the information presented in this letter, we recommend that you condition any future Fiscal Year 2020 voluntary contributions to the WHO on the resignation of Director-General Tedros. Sadly, we know COVID-19 is not the last pandemic the world will have to face," the lawmakers wrote.
The Congressmen alleged that signs of the outbreak of a new deadly virus in Wuhan were visible in early December 2019, when Zhang Jixian, a doctor at the Hubei Provincial Hospital, warned PRC health authorities that a novel coronavirus was affecting some 180 patients.
Several other doctors publicly discussed the outbreak in an attempt to sound the alarm but were subsequently arrested by PRC authorities or disciplined by their supervisors. A senior doctor at the Wuhan Central Hospital, Ai Fen, instructed her staff to wear protective clothing and masks despite PRC official instructions to the contrary, they wrote.
The Congressmen said that several concerning facts that have been established including WHO knew that COVID-19 was spreading through human-to-human interaction at least three weeks before it informed the rest of the world.
Congressmen alleged that WHO Director-General Tedros' policies prevented the WHO from heeding Taiwan's warning and undermined the credibility of the information Taiwan provided to other countries.
"Director-General Tedros cast the tie breaking vote that delayed the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, despite clear evidence of the rapid spread and human-to-human transmission of COVID-19," they said.
Tedros heaped praised on the PRC despite clear evidence that the Chinese government COVID-19 cover up delayed the proper response to the initial outbreak, they alleged. "Tedros' long-standing relationship with PRC authorities and embrace of CCP propaganda and polices undermines his ability to serve impartially as Director-General," they said.