A group of Republican senators has reintroduced legislation with the aim to hold Chinese officials accountable for suppressing and distorting information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Chinese Communist Party silenced Dr. Li and many others for attempting to speak the truth about the coronavirus outbreak and Beijing’s involvement. Meanwhile, they stood by as the virus spread around the world–resulting in loss of life and loss of livelihood for millions,” stated Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), according to a statement from her office on June 10.
Dr. Li Wenliang was one of several Chinese whistleblower doctors who tried to warn the public of an “unknown pneumonia” outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019. The Chinese regime ignored the warnings—instead, Li was taken to a police station, reprimanded for “rumor-mongering” and accused of “disturbing social order.”
The legislation would grant the president the authority to sanction government officials and their associates for acts “intended to deliberately conceal or distort information about a public health emergency of international concern,” including COVID-19, according to the text of the bill (pdf).
These sanctions outlined in the bill include inadmissibility to the United States, revoking existing U.S. visas, and blocking property transactions within the United States.
Additionally, the legislation would empower Congress to ask the president to review specific foreign officials for their roles in a health crisis. In response, the president must report back to Congress within 120 days after Congress’ request, to state whether the officials would be sanctioned.
The president could remove sanctions on foreign officials under the conditions including that they have been “prosecuted appropriately for the activity for which sanctions were imposed,” according to the bill.
The Chinese regime eventually investigated Li’s case and punished two police officers in March 2020 for their “inappropriate” actions in punishing the doctor. Critics have expressed dissatisfaction with the investigation, saying the two officers were merely scapegoats.
“Any 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,” Blackburn added.
The legislation, named the “Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act,” was introduced by Blackburn, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Similar bills were introduced in both the Senate (S.3600) and House (H.R.6421) last year.
“Throughout the past year, we saw Communist China lie and spread propaganda in an attempt to cover up a global pandemic, silencing any and all who dared speak the truth,” Scott stated according to the statement.
The Florida senator added: “This legislation will give the United States the authority to sanction any foreign official who suppresses or distorts information about global health, like the Chinese Communist Government did.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, Beijing has blamed multiple countries, including India, Italy, and the United States, for the spread of the CCP virus. Most recently, on June 7, the Italian Embassy in China took to its social media to refute Chinese articles for “groundlessly attributed remarks” made by the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in connection to the origins of the CCP virus.
The origins of the virus have currently remained a mystery as the Chinese regime has repeatedly blocked outside investigators from having unfettered access in China to probe where the virus came from.
On June 10, the British health minister Matt Hancock became the latest political figure to call for a full, independent COVID-19 investigation in China. He said China’s lack of transparency was one reason that hampered the UK’s early response to the pandemic.