China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), one of its two communist legislative chambers, proposed drafting a sovereign immunity law on Wednesday to allow Chinese people to sue the American state in courts, an act of revenge for mounting litigation against China.
Lawyers around the world – in states as far from each other as Italy, Nigeria, Turkey, and India – have brought lawsuits against the Communist Party and the state of China for silencing doctors early on in the pandemic who had identified a contagious respiratory disease. The lawsuits also accuse China of pressuring foreign states not to impose travel restrictions on Chinese nationals and of pressuring global agencies like the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to downplay the severity of the outbreak.
In the United States, the states of Missouri and Mississippi have sued the Communist Party for the damage caused by the Chinese coronavirus. Lawyers have brought lawsuits against China in states like Texas, New York, and Florida.
America’s Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) prevents individuals from bringing lawsuits against foreign state entities in U.S. courts. Congress can override this limitation through legislation exempting certain states in certain circumstances. Several lawmakers – prominently Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) – have backed a law that would disable sovereign immunity provisions to allow lawsuits against China for damage related to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Similar legislation exists in China, which is why Communist Party media reported on Wednesday that the NPC is attempting to carve an exemption out of that law for lawsuits against “other countries.” The Chinese lawmaker leading the charge, Ma Yide, told the state propaganda outlet Global Times that the law would “ensure Chinese citizens’ and companies’ rights to sue the US over its blame game and cover-up of information during the pandemic.”
Ma said that Chinese citizens should have a right to sue the United States citing an unsubstantiated Chinese Foreign Ministry conspiracy theory that the U.S. Army is responsible for the ongoing pandemic.
“Many believe that U.S. soldiers brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Others believe that the U.S. has hidden key information, which led to the global health crisis. Why can’t Chinese citizens and companies sue the U.S. government?” Ma asked the Global Times.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. Army in March of releasing the pathogen and causing the pandemic, not offering an explanation for how that could be possible when there is no evidence the virus existed anywhere prior to its discovery in Wuhan, central China. Chinese state propaganda later added as an explanation that American soldiers could have brought the virus to Wuhan during October’s Military World Games, hosted by that city. China was disqualified from the games despite being the host for “extensive cheating.”
There is also no evidence of any coronavirus infection related to the Military World Games. The American servicewoman accused of infecting Wuhan, Maatje Benassi, told CNN in an interview that the Chinese government’s false claims have resulted in a “nightmare” situation of incessant harassment from emboldened Chinese nationalists.White House
As this conspiracy theory has also largely failed to convince the world, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also speculated that the virus existed throughout last year in the United States and was disguised as e-cigarette, or vaping disease. Hua did not account for the fact that none of the cases of respiratory illness related to vaping were contagious; the Chinese coronavirus is believed to spread very rapidly.
Coverage of the NPC sovereign immunity exception indicates that, should it pass, Chinese citizens could use these theories to demand redress from the U.S. government. The Global Times claimed that some lawsuits are already surfacing.
Liang Xuguang, a lawyer based in Wuhan, has filed a lawsuit against U.S. government agencies over the suspected intentional spread of misinformation over COVID-19 [the Chinese coronavirus]. Liang urged the U.S. to publicize the number of ‘influenza deaths’ that were caused by the novel coronavirus,” the state propaganda outlet reported.
The Times blamed the United States for spearheading “abusive” lawsuits against China linked to the pandemic around the world, but only named the United States among those entertaining the lawsuits.
In reality, courts around the world have allowed lawsuits against the Chinese state or Communist Party in relation to China’s negligence in containing the virus. Among the evidence cited in many of these lawsuits is the fact that China destroyed early samples of the virus from Wuhan, detained doctors and others sharing safety information on contagious diseases on social media, and reports that dictator Xi Jinping personally urged W.H.O. head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to downplay how contagious the virus is.
In the United States, the states of Missouri and Mississippi have sued China officially. Missouri’s attorney general sued the Communist Party in an attempt to avoid sovereign immunity barriers, arguing that the party is a corporate entity separate from the state of China.