Smith’s bill would allow Americans to sue China for COVID-19 related losses

Legislation introduced by Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Ron Wright (R-TX) on Friday would strip China and other countries of their sovereign immunity if they intentionally made misrepresentations regarding the coronavirus, thereby allowing U.S. citizens, businesses and local government to sue those governments for the deaths, pain and suffering, and economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, HR 6524, is similar to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), the only law enacted by Congressional Override during the Obama Administration, which gave families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for its role in the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans.

“My bill strips China, and any other country which intentionally misleads the WHO, of its sovereign immunity, and allows Americans to sue the Chinese government in court for the damages they have suffered as a consequence of China’s misrepresentations to the world about the seriousness and nature of the novel coronavirus,” Smith said.

“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. Fact is, it wasn’t.

“Many Americans have died, 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.”

Smith has been a leader in the US Congress challenging the Chinese government’s horrific human rights record, its regular use of torture, and the scant regard it shows for the health and safety of the Chinese people. He said the legislation gives voice to Americans impacted by China’s deceit and fits well with his human rights work. He said the bill was prompted in part by sentiment expressed from around the country, including the strong statement released earlier this week by New Jersey Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt, who had also called for removing China’s sovereign immunity. 

“The media manipulation and spreading of false propaganda by certain State Parties have directly resulted in the loss of life around the world. 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,” said Congressman Wright. “I am proud to introduce this legislation with my colleague and friend Congressman Smith, allowing victims of these reckless and negligent actions to be compensated.”

Smith serves as ranking member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and for many years was its chairman.  He has held more than 60 hearings on the Chinese government’s abuses of the human rights of its own citizens. 

Read online.