Americans and governments across the United States would have the ability to sue the government of China for the spread of coronavirus, under a bill filed in Congress.
Republican U.S. Reps. Ron Wright of Texas and Chris Smith of New Jersey have introduced House Resolution 6524. It essentially strips China — and any other country “which intentionally misleads” the World Health Organization — of sovereign immunity.
A statement by the two said lawsuits against China would hold that country “accountable for the deaths, pain and suffering — as well as the economic crisis — resulting from its intentional misrepresentations” to WHO, which let COVID-19 “spread viciously throughout the U.S. and around the globe.”
“Knowing full well that they had a deadly and highly contagious disease on their hands, as late as mid-January, China’s communist leaders told the WHO that there was no need for any precautions, as everything was under control,” Smith wrote in a statement. “Fact is, it wasn’t.
“Many Americans have died prematurely, some will suffer permanent injuries, while still others will suffer harm to their businesses because of the Chinese government’s lies. My bill makes it possible for Americans to recover some of what they have lost from China.”
This measure, filed Friday, is similar to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which gave families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack the ability to sue Saudi Arabia.
The first outbreak of the coronavirus was in Wuhan, China.
“Time and time again, we have seen actors such as Communist China use the World Health Organization (WHO) as a mouthpiece to spread lies and misinformation to the international community, and they need to be held accountable,” Wright said, adding that the bill will allow “victims of these reckless and negligent actions to be compensated.”
The bill is largely symbolic, said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
“It’s a symbolic attempt to blame China for the virus itself,” Riddlesperger said, adding that “it’s a political ploy.”
“It’s something to try to make hay out of the whole coronavirus pandemic and try to show people you are doing something about it from a legal perspective.”