Last week, the Chinese Communist Party threatened “severe consequences” for House Republicans seeking to hold China accountable for its malfeasance in the coronavirus pandemic. China threatened to slap sanctions on them and to interfere in U.S. elections to boot them from office. Far from intimidating these Congressmen, however, the threat appears to have emboldened them. On Monday, three of them sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to apply sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials for human rights violations under the Magnitsky Act.
“The Chinese regime’s open threat to interfere in American elections is just the latest of many aggressive, hostile actions. It is desperate to avoid responsibility, so it has reverted to desperate tactics,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the first lawmaker to suggest China should pay reparations for the fallout from coronavirus, said in a statement Monday. “I’m neither surprised nor intimidated–I’m encouraged.”
Banks — joined by Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Lance Gooden (R-Texas) — asked Pompeo to impose sanctions on specific leaders in China in a letter connecting those leaders with the silencing of doctors, the destruction of coronavirus samples, the issuing of coronavirus lies and propaganda, and the oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang (placing this mostly Muslim minority in camps likely increases their risk for the coronavirus). Pompeo would bring the sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, a law passed in 2012 allowing the U.S. to freeze assets and ban visas for foreign officials who engage in grotesque human rights abuses like the torture and killing of Sergei Magnitsky.
“I know Secretary Pompeo shares my dim view of the Communist Party, and I look forward to working with him, and Reps. Crenshaw and Gooden to hold Party officials accountable. Starting with the seven on that list, who have significantly harmed the global economy and contributed to the deaths of countless American and Chinese citizens,” Banks concluded. In addition to this letter, Banks led twenty-one of his fellow Republicans in sending a letter to Attorney General William Barr, demanding the U.S. bring a case against China in the International Court of Justice.
Crenshaw, another Republican targeted in the Chinese threat who joined Banks in demanding sanctions, argued that applying “Global Magnitsky sanctions to these Chinese Communist Party bad actors is a common sense step and within the original intent of the Magnitsky Act – punishing those who conduct gross human rights abuses and benefit from corruption.”
“Unlike the CCP’s threats to sanction me, and other Members of Congress, we have a leg to stand on. 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,” Crenshaw declared.
“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 added. “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.”
The British think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), which claimed that the G7 countries should sue China for damages in excess of $4 trillion over the coronavirus crisis, laid out a digestible timeline of the virus’s spread and China’s lies about the disease and failure to contain the spread.
“From the outset, the CCP tried to censor attempts by Chinese citizens to identify and publicise the truth concerning the origins, nature and dangers of the virus. Not all of these censorship efforts succeeded, and a considerable body of independent, corroborative data came to light,” the HJS report explains.
According to unpublished, unconfirmed Chinese government reports seen by the South China Morning Post, the first recorded case of the coronavirus dates to November 17, 2019. By December 8, the SCMP documents recorded between 1 and 5 new cases. By December 27, the SCMP documents showed 181 confirmed cases, and a friend of coronavirus whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang recalled that his medical department first reported the new outbreak to the Wuhan Center for Disease Control on the 27th.
On December 30, Dr. Li sent a message to his friends about the outbreak, and the police responded by investigating his friends. The authorities forced Dr. Li to pledge not to spread “disruptive rumors.” Meanwhile, by that date, the SCMP documents recorded 266 cases. Li would go on to die of COVID-19 after contracting it from his patients. On December 31, China finally reported the outbreak to the WHO, while claiming there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
On January 1, 2020, a Hubei official ordered coronavirus tests halted and samples of the virus destroyed. On January 14, the WHO reported some human-to-human transmission, but quickly retracted the claim, citing Chinese sources. Wuhan was not put under lockdown until January 22-23. On January 26, Wuhan’s mayor admitted that 5 million people had already left the city.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said he had “issued requirements for the prevention and control of the new Coronavirus” as early as January 7. He could have acted to shut down Wuhan as early as January 7, two weeks before the city was shut down. A University of Southampton study found that if strict quarantine measures had been introduced three weeks earlier, the coronavirus’s spread would have been reduced by 95 percent.
As the coronavirus spread across the globe, China’s Communist Party put out a video encouraging Italians to hug Chinese people to prove they weren’t racist — while China was lying about the true danger of the virus. In the early days of the pandemic, China asked other countries for personal protective equipment (PPE) and received 2.4 billion pieces. In fact, it appears Chinese officials prevented the WHO from declaring a global emergency at the time — perhaps in order to hoard as much PPE as possible.
When those countries asked China for PPE, China extorted them — only sending valuable medical aid if political leaders agreed to publicly praise Beijing. Chinese companies also sent faulty medical gear and coronavirus antibody tests to European countries, and a new Associated Press investigation revealed the prevalence of counterfeit masks in America, likely tracing back to a major Chinese factory. Meanwhile, the Communist Party also prevented U.S. companies from shipping their own medical gear back home, where it is sorely needed.
According to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, the Chinese Communist Party is also attempting cyber espionage on American attempts to create a coronavirus vaccine and cure. Chinese officials are also refusing to cooperate in the search for the coronavirus’ origins.
Given all this, it is no wonder that most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of China (66 percent), according to Pew Research. In fact, a poll this week found that more than two-thirds of Americans (69 percent) say the Chinese Communist Party is either “somewhat responsible” or “very responsible” for the spread of the coronavirus, and 71 percent say China should be “penalized” for it.
The latest letter is notable for tying the Uyghur “re-education camps” into the China’s coronavirus malfeasance. “The ‘re-education camps’ where the Chinese Communist Party imprisons over a million Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities are crowded and unsanitary, leaving detainees at increased risk of COVID-19 infection,” the letter states.
The letter names ten Chinese officials who engaged in various abuses, such as overseeing the detention of eight doctors in Wuhan for discussing the coronavirus, overseeing the arbitrary detention and disappearance of citizen-journalists reporting on coronavirus, issuing false public statements about the coronavirus, amplifying “unfounded speculation about the origin of coronavirus, including that it is a bioweapon exported to China by the U.S. military,” and overseeing the re-location of Uyghurs into “re-education camps” and factories.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have insisted that China must be held accountable for its malfeasance, but it remains unclear which path the administration will ultimately take.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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