GOP Legislation Aims To Punish China for COVID Lies

Legislators target Beijing in fight to discover origins of COVID

AstraZeneca's head China office / Getty Images
June 15, 2021

House Republicans are targeting the Chinese Communist Party for covering up the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and allowing it to escape the city of Wuhan, killing millions across the globe.

Reps. Rob Wittman (R., Va.) and Ann Wagner (R., Mo.) introduced bills Tuesday that order the imposition of Global Magnitsky Sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials and health authorities, the same sanctions that are used to punish human rights abusers worldwide.

The World Deserves to Know Act, introduced by Wittman, would investigate research funding from the National Institutes of Health that may have played a role in the outbreak, applying pressure on efforts to discover the coronavirus’s origins. The measure also proposes banning future cooperation between U.S. colleges and Chinese research institutions that may have been implicated in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Wittman said the act will "pave the way to uncover the truth" about the coronavirus in order to prevent a future pandemic.

"We cannot allow China to impede a free and fair investigation into the origins of COVID-19," Wittman said. "Nor can we tolerate China’s suppression of information, which could prove critically important to preventing future pandemics. The sanctions imposed by the World Deserves to Know Act pave the way to uncover the truth about COVID-19’s origins."

The Compensation for Americans Act, introduced by Wagner, would redouble calls to sanction certain members of the Chinese Communist Party and establish a fund for the families of U.S. victims of the coronavirus. The bill would also strip China of its "developing nation" status at the World Trade Organization and bar the investment of U.S. pensions in China, among other economic punishments.

Wagner said her legislation would "send a message to China that the United States will not stand for such horrific acts."

"China took deliberate, reckless action that allowed the coronavirus to spread, killing millions worldwide," Wagner said. "This is not a matter up for debate, and they must be held accountable.... The Compensation for Americans Act will make sure China pays for their corrupt, unethical, and dangerous actions."

The bills advance a push among hawkish members of Congress to uncover the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, as suspicion grows that a lab leak from potentially U.S.-funded gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology caused the virus's outbreak. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, prominent media outlets, and Democratic leaders have denied such theories. A group of Republicans led by Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wis.) have called for more transparency and an investigation into the issue.

The inspector general's office for the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday it will open a probe into taxpayer funding of a U.S. partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including tax dollars given to the EcoHealth Alliance, a group that has come under fire from Republicans for its work with the lab.