Rep. Crenshaw: ‘Let’s Let Americans Sue the Chinese Government’

By Patrick Goodenough | April 20, 2020 | 3:45am EDT
The U.S. District Court building in Chicago, one of four federal court districts envisaged as having jurisdiction for lawsuits against China, in legislation introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. (Photo: U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois)
The U.S. District Court building in Chicago, one of four federal court districts envisaged as having jurisdiction for lawsuits against China, in legislation introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. (Photo: U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois)

(CNSNews.com) – As evidence of Chinese Communist Party culpability in trying to cover up the coronavirus outbreak grows, Americans impacted by its actions should be able to sue, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said at the weekend, contending that many “oppressed people in China” are sure to want the truth to come out too.

Crenshaw and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have introduced legislation in the House and Senate designed to allow Americans to sue China in federal court for death, injury, and economic damages caused by the pandemic since January 1, 2020.

Amid the most calamitous health and economic crisis in living memory, some class action lawsuits have already been filed, including in Florida and California.

Crenshaw told “Fox & Friends” there was “increasing evidence that the Chinese authorities, the Chinese Communist Party, hid this virus deliberately” after it emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year.

He pointed to the fact China had restricted domestic travel “but allowed international travel from Wuhan,” punished and silenced doctors and scientists who raised the alarm, and blocked U.S. journalists. Crenshaw also accused China of not allowing samples of the virus that causes COVID-19 to be shared.

“There’s an increasing amount of evidence that shows that they are culpable,” Crenshaw said. “Okay, so what can we do about that? Well, when Americans are wronged, what do we do? We sue somebody. Well, let’s let Americans sue the Chinese government.”

Crenshaw said he and Cotton “want Americans to feel like they have a voice, and that our justice system can be used to actually deliver justice for us.”

Asked how confident he was China would be forthcoming about what happened, Crenshaw stressed the importance of holding investigations. He noted that Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have introduced legislation calling for an international investigation into the CCP’s alleged cover-up.

“Of course the Chinese Communist Party is always going to lie and try to, and try to cover for themselves. That does without saying,” Crenshaw said.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t seek out the truth. You know, there are a lot of oppressed people in China, and I bet they want that word to get out. And the truth already is coming out.”

In an earlier statement, Cotton charged that, “By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe.”

“Their decision to cover up the virus led to thousands of needless deaths and untold economic harm,” he said. “It’s only appropriate that we hold the Chinese government accountable for the damage it has caused.”

The legislation states the Chinese government’s cover-up of COVID-19 “has caused significant death, injury, and economic harm in the United States and around the world; and is, at minimum, grossly negligent behavior causing significant injury.”

Almost 2.4 million people across the globe have been confirmed as having COVID-19, and around 165,000 deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus. As of late Sunday, there were 755,533 cases in the U.S., and more than 41,000 deaths.

‘Potentially millions of claims in federal court’

The 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in general prohibits lawsuits in U.S. courts against foreign governments, but with certain, specified exceptions.

They include cases when “damages are sought against a foreign state for personal injury or death, or damage to or loss of property, occurring in the United States and caused by the tortious act or omission of that foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state …”

The legislation introduced by Crenshaw and Cotton seeks to amend the FSIA, creating a narrow exception for damages caused by China’s handling of the outbreak, by making it clear the alleged cover-up, causing the virus to spread further and faster than it otherwise would have, can be considered a “tortious act.”

It provides the possibility for private suits to be dismissed, but only if the U.S. and China reach agreement settling claims.

“In other words, China can take responsibility and agree to pay for the damage it has caused, or it can face potentially millions of claims in federal court,” the two Republicans explained.

(The legislation is modeled on an earlier amendment of FSIA, the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, designed to enable families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks the right to sue Saudi Arabia for any alleged role. President Obama vetoed the bill, but the Senate in a 97-1 vote overrode the veto – for the first time in his presidency. An earlier amendment to the FSIA, in 2008, allowed families of victims to seek pain and suffering damages from terror-sponsoring states.)

The bills introduced by Crenshaw and Cotton restrict private lawsuits to just four district courts – in Manhattan, N.Y., Houston, Texas, San Francisco, Calif. and Chicago, Ill.  Crenshaw said the aim was to ensure that a flood of lawsuits “doesn’t become overwhelming.”

A report by a conservative British think tank earlier this month said China was potentially liable for trillions of dollars in damages arising from the pandemic, and the international community should pursue “legal action against the PRC for the breaches of international law and their consequences.”

The report by the Henry Jackson Society said the G7 countries alone would together spend more than $4 trillion “to meet the direct economic cost of COVID-19, including health and social security, as well as underwriting loan guarantees and broader financial support to prevent the global economy from entering a period of deep recession.”

It said potential avenues for legal action could include the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the World Trade Organization, as well as courts in Hong Kong, Britain, and the United States.

See also:
Should China Pay? Pompeo Says He’s Confident Those Responsible Will be ‘Held Accountable’ (Apr. 14, 2020)

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