Missouri became the first US state to sue the Chinese government over the novel coronavirus outbreak, citing it as “an appalling campaign of deceit”.
The civil lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in a federal court by GOP state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, claiming Chinese officials are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians”, reported usatoday.com
“The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” said Schmitt who is seeking damages. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”
Schmitt said Chinese officials and others, including laboratories and China”s Communist Party, were all “engaged in misrepresentations, concealment, and retaliation to conceal the gravity and seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak from the rest of the world.”
The number of Missouri deaths statewide rose to 215 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The total number of cases rose to 5,963.
“In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real – thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table,” Schmitt said.
The lawsuit additionally accuses the Chinese government of making the COVID-19 pandemic worse by “hoarding” personal protective equipment, like masks.
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University who was the sole witness called by Republicans before the Judiciary Committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, explained that “Such lawsuits are exceptionally difficult,” as China is protected by sovereign immunity.
“The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 extends blanket immunity to most lawsuits in the United States,” he writes. “The exceptions are very narrow and rarely accepted by the American courts, which are clearly intended to discourage litigation.”
In addition to seeking damages, the lawsuit seeks to make the Chinese government officially accountable for “a terrible campaign of fraud, concealment, abuse, and inaction of Chinese authorities.”
“In the early critical weeks of the outbreak, the Chinese authorities have betrayed the people, suppressed crucial information, whistleblowers were arrested, condemned to transmit from human to human in the face of evidence, the findings of the medical complex were destroyed, millions of people are allowed to be exposed to the virus, and personal protective equipment also stops – the global epidemic that is likely to cause unnecessary and preventable, “the suit said.
The Missouri motion came after nearly two dozen GOP lawmakers asked the Trump administration to go against China on Monday in an international court. They say China has violated the 2005 International Health Regulations by suppressing critical information about outbreaks and disease.