A former U.S. ambassador to Japan has criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its coverup of the CCP virus in the early stages of the deadly outbreak, calling the regime’s mishandling of the virus “the crime of the century.”
Bill Hagerty, who is now a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee, told “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday that he believes the Chinese regime’s efforts to suppress information and conceal the virus before it became a pandemic makes it “the greatest cover-up in human history.”
“I’ve worked with China and seen how they operate for years. And I can tell you, what they’re trying to do right now with this Wuhan virus is the crime of the century in my view,” Hagerty told the radio host, Jeff Poor.
“When they tried to act like it didn’t from come there—they even said the United States, our military somehow put it there. It’s just unbelievable,” he added.
Between mid-December and mid-January, the Chinese regime displayed a pattern of behavior of withholding information and making misrepresentations about the severity of the disease. There was evidence that the CCP had failed to expeditiously provide the World Health Organization (WHO) with important information about the virus such as the transmissibility of the virus, details of the virus’s genome, and infection of healthcare workers. Experts have found that this lack of transparency and candor hindered the international response to the virus.
One study, currently in preprint from researchers at the University of Southhampton in the UK, found that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier, the number of cases could have been reduced by 95 percent.
The Chinese regime was also not responsive to international requests to learn about the virus and the outbreak. U.S. Health and Human Sevices Secretary Alex Azar previously said the United States had been trying to send a group of experts to understand the outbreak’s transmission and severity since Jan. 6. However, the United States’ repeated offers were left unanswered for a month.
The Chinese regime eventually agreed to allow the WHO to send a group of international experts to study the virus in late January. This came after the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus returned from a visit from China full of praise for its leader Xi Jinping and the regime’s response efforts.
Moreover, when multiple Wuhan doctors attempted to warn their colleagues and the public about a “pneumonia with an unknown cause,” later known to be the CCP virus, authorities attempted to silence them and reprimanded them for “rumor-mongering.” The most notable of them was Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist who ultimately succumbed to the disease after contracting it from a patient he was treating.
“We know it was their efforts to try to hide it, to not disclose it to the rest of the world. It cost Chinese lives. Now it has gotten out,” Hagerty said. “It cost lives, and it has cost economic damage all around the world. The Chinese are playing what I believe is a public relations game, and what they should have been playing is working hard on public health.”
Hagerty argued in an op-ed published on Breitbart in March that the Chinese regime should be held accountable for the CCP virus.
“[T]he Wuhan coronavirus is underscoring the real threat posed by the communist leadership in China that—rather than working to save the lives of its own people—prefers to silence opposition from within as it works to spread anti-American propaganda,” he wrote.
Some legal experts have shared a view that the Chinese regime could be held accountable for failing to meet its legal duty under international law.
James Kraska, chair and Charles H. Stockton Professor of international maritime law in the Stockton Center for International Law at the U.S. Naval War College, previously told The Epoch Times he believes the Chinese regime could have violated the International Health Regulations (IHR) by failing to be forthright about the virus in the early stages and share information about it to WHO.
The IHR (pdf), an agreement between 196 countries, requires state parties to notify the World Health Organization (WHO) “of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern within its territory.”
“This is a legal duty that states freely have entered into, and China like all states that are a party … have agreed to do that,” Kraska said.
“But it appears in this case, China did not fulfill its duty.”
U.S. lawmakers have also voiced their concerns about Beijing’s mishandling of the virus in the early stages.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced a bipartisan House resolution, HR 907, in March to condemn the CCP for intentionally downplaying the outbreak through censorship and disinformation.
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) are also calling for an international investigation into how CCP’s initial handling of the virus may have endangered the United States and the rest of the world.