Republicans Introduce Bill to Sanction China for ‘Obstruction of COVID Origins Investigation’

Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli (L) is seen inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province on February 23, 2017. - The P4 epidemiological laboratory was built in co-operation with French bio-industrial firm Institut Merieux and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo …
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and more than a dozen other GOP lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would sanction Beijing for its “continued obstruction of a COVID origins investigation.”

Rubio said in a statement:

For two years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has stonewalled all efforts to uncover the true origins of COVID-19. We know the virus originated in China, however, the CCP’s attempts to obfuscate the truth has led to countless deaths and needless suffering worldwide. It is clear that Beijing will only respond to concerted pressure from the United States and the international community. My bill will force the CCP to the table.

The bill reportedly builds off of Rubio’s previously proposed COVID Act of 2021 by adding more sanctions again Chinese officials “who were involved in concealing the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China from the international community…” according to his office.

The legislation would authorize sanctions 90 days after its enactment if the CCP fails to allow a “credible and comprehensive international investigation” into the origins of coronavirus at Wuhan laboratories that “engaged in risky research involving bat coronaviruses.”

If the bill is passed, the president would be enabled to sanction the leadership of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and its affiliated institutes and laboratories, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The president could also suspend federal research across all academic fields “for studies that involve the CAS” and prohibit gain-of-function virus research between U.S.-based institutions that receive federal funding and People’s Republic of China individuals and institutions.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who joined the bill, said:

The Chinese Communist Party’s deception on COVID origins has come at the expense of American lives. In no way should the United States enable or encourage the dangerous and deceptive practices of these Chinese-state labs, and this legislation will expand on our existing work by formally levying long overdue sanctions against the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to the bill’s text, sanctions include asset blocking, blocking visas, revoking current visas, and issuing penalties for rule violators.  

“The Chinese Communist Party’s inexcusable roadblocks to legitimate scientific investigations of the coronavirus deserve a strong response by the United States and other world leaders,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) said. “The sanctions outlined in this legislation could finally prompt the CCP to help us understand the origins of a health pandemic that started in China and that continues its global rampage today.” 

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