A pair of Republican lawmakers unveiled a bill on June 15 that seeks to sanction top Chinese health officials and hold the communist regime accountable until it allows an independent probe into whether COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab.
The World Deserves to Know Act (pdf), introduced by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Robert Wittman (R-Va.), aims to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for “their intellectual property theft, multiple human rights abuses” until there’s an independent and unimpeded investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
“As the leader of the free world, the United States must hold Chinese Communist Party officials accountable for their unconscionable actions,” Stefanik said in a statement. “A thorough, unimpeded investigation is necessary to determine the extent of their actions and prevent the Chinese Communist Party from financially benefiting, in any form, especially at the expense of the American people.”
The proposed legislation comes as the hypothesis that the CCP virus could have been artificially or deliberately manipulated at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is receiving wider recognition.
Early reports about an outbreak of the CCP virus first appeared in Wuhan in late 2019, when a cluster of cases was reported by state-controlled media to be linked to a local wet market. More than a year later, the origins of the virus remain unknown, although the possibility that the virus leaked from a laboratory at the WIV is gaining traction.
The Wall Street Journal reported on May 23 that three researchers at the WIV were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with seasonal flu and COVID-19. The newspaper cited unnamed U.S. government sources familiar with a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.
President Joe Biden has ordered the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to ramp up efforts to investigate the virus’s origins.
If signed into law, the bill would also instruct Biden to work with the IC to identify CCP members involved in the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists during the onset of the pandemic and sanction them for human rights abuses, Stefanik’s office stated.
The National Academy of Sciences would also be banned from using federal funds to enter into new contracts to fund Chinese-based institutes or universities that are part of China’s National Health Commission.
In addition, the bill would also review whether National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding has been directly or indirectly funneled to gain-of-function research.
“We cannot allow China to impede a free and fair investigation into the origins of COVID-19,” Wittman said in a statement. “Nor can we tolerate China’s suppression of information which could prove critically important to preventing future pandemics. The sanctions imposed by the World Deserves to Know Act pave the way to uncover the truth about COVID-19’s origins.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on June 13 that Beijing must work with further investigations into the origins of the CCP virus. He noted that China’s failure to cooperate was one reason that the World Health Organization’s initial report didn’t go well.
Blinken said the initial report—a phase one study published by the WHO in March—“had real problems with it, not the least of which was China’s failure to cooperate.”
The report was based on findings by a WHO-led investigation team that conducted groundwork in the Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year. Wuhan is where the first cluster of COVID-19 cases emerged, after which Chinese authorities linked these cases to a local wet market.
However, Beijing refused to provide raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the investigation team. Critics have noted that the WHO investigation lacked independence, as some team members had ties to the CCP.
The initial report adhered to Beijing’s preferred stances on the virus’s origin and concluded that the possibility of the virus originating from a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” Beijing has pushed a natural zoonotic hypothesis—that the virus had transmitted to humans from an animal host.
Frank Fang contributed to this report.