GOP Bill Would Sanction Foreign Officials Who Suppress, Distort Information About the Coronavirus

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaks to the media after attending a briefing with administration officials about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. Members of the House and the Senate were briefed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark …
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Several Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Tom Cotton (AR), Thom Tillis (NC), Rick Scott (FL), Steve Daines (MT), Marsha Blackburn (TN), and James Lankford (OK), are introducing legislation that authorizes the president of the United States to sanction foreign officials who either suppress or distort information about international public health crises, including the Chinese coronavirus.

The measure, the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act, authorizes the “imposition of sanctions with respect to the deliberate concealment or distortion of information about public health emergencies of international concern, and for other purposes,” according to the text of the bill, which Sen. Cotton first introduced in May 2020.

The legislation is named after Dr. Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor or “whistleblower” who was arrested for “spreading rumors” about the coronavirus. He died, China claims, of the coronavirus earlier this year, but skeptics wonder if “Li actually died due to the consequences of physical abuse by the authorities when he was arrested for ‘spreading rumors,'” as Breitbart News reported:

Li’s specific “offense” was writing a post on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, advising doctors to wear protective clothing when treating all patients to avoid the rapidly spreading epidemic. He was accused of “making false comments” that “severely disturbed the social order” – the very same thing the Global Times fretted about when applauding the World Health Organization for supposedly endorsing government censorship.

“Dr. Li tried to warn his country and the world about the coronavirus but was silenced by the Chinese Communist Party. By hiding the truth about the virus, the CCP turned a regional health problem into a global catastrophe that has killed millions,” Cotton said in a statement.

“To honor Dr. Li, our bill seeks to punish foreign officials responsible for suppressing information about international health crises, including the Wuhan virus,” he added.

According to a press release detailing the measure, sanctions could include “inadmissibility to the United States, revocation of existing U.S. visas, and the blocking of all property within the United States.” Additionally, the legislation “would provide Congress with the authority to request that the president review specific foreign officials for sanctions eligibility.” The president would have 120 days to report to Congress if he or she “intends to impose sanctions.”

“The Chinese Communist Party silenced Dr. Li and many others for attempting to speak the truth about the coronavirus outbreak and China’s involvement,” Blackburn said in a statement.

“Meanwhile, they stood by as the virus spread around the world – resulting in loss of life and loss of livelihood for millions. These actions by foreign governments to suppress those who provide pertinent information about public health crises are unacceptable, and they must be held accountable to the fullest extent,” the Tennessee senator added.

Sen. Lankford stressed the importance of holding foreign governments accountable, “including China, for attempting to suppress information about public health emergencies, especially if that information can help prevent the loss of American lives.”


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