Washington: Nine influential US senators have introduced a legislation in Congress seeking to authorise President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on China if it fails to cooperate in providing a full accounting of the events leading up to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
More than 250,000 people have died and over 4 million have been infected due to the coronavirus pandemic globally. The US is the worst-hit country with more than 80,000 deaths and 1.4 million cases.
The COVID-19 Accountability Act, authored by Senator Lindsay Graham and co-sponsored by eight others, was introduced in the Senate – the upper chamber of Congress, on Tuesday.
It mandates the President to make a certification to Congress within 60 days that China has provided a full and complete accounting to any COVID-19 probe led by the US, its allies or the UN affiliates such as the World Health Organization and has closed all operating wet markets that have the potential to expose humans to health risks through the introduction of zoonotic disease into the human population.
Without the certification, the President would be authorised to impose a range of sanctions such as asset freezes, travel bans, visa revocations, restricting US financial institutions from making loans or underwriting to Chinese businesses and prohibiting Chinese firms from being listed on American stock exchanges.
“I’m convinced that without the Chinese Communist Party deception, the virus would not be here in the United States,” said Graham.
“China refuses to allow the international community to go into the Wuhan lab to investigate. They refuse to allow investigators to study how this outbreak started. I’m convinced China will never cooperate with a serious investigation unless they are made to do so. This hard-hitting piece of legislation will sanction China until they cooperate with the investigators,” he said.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) must be held accountable for the detrimental role they played in this pandemic. Their outright deception of the origin and spread of the virus cost the world valuable time and lives as it began to spread, Senator Jim Inhofe said.
“The COVID-19 Accountability Act will force China to provide a full account of the events leading up to this devastating outbreak. America is strong and we will come out of this crisis, but China must be forced to face the facts and take accountability for their actions,” he said.
The CPC’s continued suppression of the truth amidst the coronavirus outbreak cannot go unchecked, said Senator Roger Wicker.
This legislation would authorise the President to take appropriate actions against the Chinese government to ensure similar outbreaks do not happen in the future, he said.
This legislation is about taking necessary actions against China to hold them accountable for the cover up of the COVID-19 outbreak and to prevent the spread of future pandemics, said Senator Steve Daines.
“We must send a clear and strong message to China that there will be consequences for their reckless actions,” he said.
The Chinese government engaged in one of the biggest cover-ups in modern history lying to the world and allowing the spread of the COVID-19 outside its borders, said Senator Thom Tillis.
The CPC’s mistakes enabled the coronavirus to grow from a local issue to a global pandemic. Instead of being transparent, Chinese diplomats are sharing propaganda. It is clear that China intends to use this crisis to their advantage by extending their influence around the world, Senator Todd Young said.
“China must be more forthcoming as investigations begin and we endeavour to learn lessons from this disaster. This legislation will demonstrate to the communist regime in Beijing that the world needs answers on how this pandemic started and spread misery across the globe,” said Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
China must be held accountable, and if it does not cooperate with these reasonable measures to fairly investigate the origins of the coronavirus, closes wet markets and releases pro-democracy advocates arrested during the pandemic, then it should face the serious consequences described by this legislation, said Senator Mike Braun.
“Communist China started a global pandemic and failed to provide any information that could have helped save thousands of lives. They need to be held accountable. If Communist China refuses to be honest about the origins of the Coronavirus, the US will not wait for history to judge them harshly.
“We will take action and we will do everything we can to hold Communist China accountable for the devastation they have caused around the world,” Senator Rick Scott said.
China has denied covering up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and accused the US of attempting to divert the public attention by insinuating that the virus originated from a virology laboratory in Wuhan.
“China was the first country to report the COVID-19 to the World Health Organisation (WHO), (and) that doesn’t mean the virus originated from Wuhan… There has never been any concealment, and we’ll never allow any concealment,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said last month.
“A discerning person will understand at a glance that the purpose is to create confusion, divert public attention, and shirk their responsibility. I’ll repeat what we said already many times. Tracing the source of the virus is a serious scientific issue. We need to listen to science and respect scientific and professional opinions, he said.