A proposed law that allows Americans to take legal action against the Chinese regime over COVID-19 in U.S. federal courts is making its way through Congress.
The Civil Justice for Victims of COVID bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday by a 13-9 vote and now makes its way to the Senate floor. The bill is co-sponsored by seven Republican senators, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
In the early stage of the outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus pandemic, Beijing failed to share the emergence of the virus, silenced whistleblowers who tried to warn about the outbreak, and downplayed the severity of the disease. This suppression of information and mismanagement, which has resulted in sweeping human and economic devastation worldwide, drew outrage from the international community sparking a global demand for accountability and justice against the communist nation.
Lawsuits began emerging around the world, including in the United States. However, many legal experts are not optimistic about whether any of the U.S. lawsuits would prevail, saying that the plaintiffs would find themselves facing significant difficulties in defeating the hurdle of foreign sovereign immunity.
Sovereign immunity is the legal doctrine that insulates countries from being sued in other countries’ courts. In the United States, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act limits lawsuits against foreign nations for civil liability unless a case comes under the law’s limited list of exceptions.
The senators say the bill aims to lift this barrier for Americans to sue the CCP, by stripping China of its sovereign immunity for its pattern of withholding information that resulted in the spread of the pandemic worldwide. They say the bill is modeled after the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) that allowed lawsuits against officials in Saudi Arabia for victims of terrorism, particularly 9/11 victims.
The bill also gives federal courts the authority to hear the claims and authorizes federal courts to freeze Chinese assets when appropriate.
Graham said he was pleased by the passage of the bill in the committee.
“It is clear to me that the Chinese Communist Party deceived the world and manipulated information about coronavirus. China restricted travel within China to slow the spread, but allowed people from China to travel throughout the world increasing the spread,” Graham said in a statement.
“To those who have suffered from the coronavirus, your suffering is directly related to the outrageous behavior of the Communist Party of China. China was negligent in dealing with the origins of the virus and deceiving the world about the nature of the virus. Americans deserve their day in court.”
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 Services 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 January 6. However, the United States’s repeated requests were left unanswered for a month.
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.
Meanwhile, previous reporting by The Epoch Times citing research, interviews with Wuhan locals, and internal government reports have revealed that Chinese authorities have been significantly downplaying the severity of the outbreak.
In the past few months, a number of class-action lawsuits have been filed by individuals or businesses in U.S. federal courts against the regime over the pandemic, including ones in Florida, Texas, Nevada, and California. Attorneys general of Missouri and Mississippi have also filed separate lawsuits against the Chinese regime on behalf of their states.