Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow Americans to sue China in federal court for “death, injury, and economic harm caused by the Wuhan Virus.”
“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, an Army veteran, said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
The bill, dubbed ‘‘Holding the Chinese Communist Party Accountable for Infecting Americans Act of 2020,” asserts that covering up the virus and causing it to spread faster or further than it otherwise would have can be considered a tortious, wrongful act.
The bill could give the United States more leverage to get China to pay for damages it has caused or come to an agreement on settling the claims.
If passed, the bill could put pressure on China to settle claims, or else face potentially millions of claims in federal court.
“We need to hold the Chinese government accountable for their malicious lies and coverup that allowed the coronavirus to spread across the world,” Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said in a statement. He went on to say:
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.
The bill is modeled after the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JUSTA), which allows the families of victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia for damages.
Anger against China has grown in the U.S. since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.
As noted in the bill, China silenced doctors who tried to warn colleagues about the coronavirus, ordered the destruction of laboratory samples and research on the virus, and detained and silenced researchers, journalists, and citizens who tried to share information about the virus that was deemed unflattering to the Chinese Communist government.
“Chinese Government officials have intentionally underreported or altered official numbers of COVID–19 infections and deaths in China, leading world health experts to make flawed analyses that severely underestimated the nature and seriousness of COVID–19,” it stated.
“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 — has caused significant death, injury, and economic harm in the United States and around the world; and is, at minimum, grossly negligent behavior causing significant injury.”
The bill is similar to one introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), called the Justice for Victims of COVID-19 Act, which would strip China of sovereign immunity for civil claims in U.S. courts and allow courts to freeze Chinese government assets so victims can enforce their claims. It would also establish a task force at the State Department to investigate China and seek compensation.