US Lawmakers Urge Magnitsky Sanctions on Chinese Officials Over Pandemic Response

May 18, 2020 Updated: May 18, 2020

Three Republican congressmen have called on the Trump administration to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses relating to the regime’s coverup of the CCP virus outbreak.

Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), and Lance Gooden (R-Texas), in a May 18 letter (pdf), urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to sanction seven Chinese officials under the Global Magnitsky Act.

The federal law authorizes the government to punish foreign violators of human rights by freezing their U.S.-based assets and barring their entry into the country.

The Chinese officials identified included the heads of the city of Wuhan’s public security bureau and health authority, because of their roles in suppressing whistleblower doctors and citizen journalists for sounding the alarm about the severity of the outbreak during its initial stages.

“If the actions of these individuals aren’t enough to earn a spot on the ‘Magnitsky List,’ then I just don’t know what is,” Gooden said in a statement. “We are talking about the people who are directly responsible for downplaying the virus and suppressing the voices of those who rang the alarms. Such egregious violations of global human rights are exactly the kind of thing we should be using this authority to address.”

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, who promoted the conspiracy theory that the virus was brought into Wuhan by U.S. Army personnel, also was included on the list.

“We believe their actions violated the 2005 International Health Regulations, the human rights of their citizens, and basic principles of fairness and responsibility in international relations,” the letter reads, referring to the international treaty that requires countries to swiftly notify the World Health Organization of significant outbreaks.

Chinese state media The Global Times recently ran a piece threatening sanctions against U.S. lawmakers who have been critical of the regime. While the article didn’t identify all those who would be sanctioned, the article criticized legislation introduced by Banks, Crenshaw, and Gooden that would allow Americans to sue the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for causing the pandemic.

“Unlike the CCP’s threats to sanction me, and other members of Congress, we have a leg to stand on,” Crenshaw said. “The communist regime concealed vital information and allowed this pandemic to spread, which cost countless American lives and livelihoods. Now, it is time for them to face the consequences.”

Banks said the move showed the regime was reverting to “desperate tactics” in a bid to avoid responsibility.

Pompeo, in a May 16 interview with Breitbart radio, said the attacks by Chinese state media indicated the regime is trying to deflect attention from its responsibility in causing the virus’s global spread.

“I think this shows that the Chinese Communist Party understands the risk that they’ve put on top of their own nation,” he said. “Those attacks demonstrate weakness, not resolve, by the Chinese Communist Party. You and I are both old enough to remember how Communist regimes, how autocracies behave. Once they know they have done things that are wrong, they strike out. They try to blame others. I think that’s what you’re seeing.”

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