Republicans want the State Department to offer cash rewards to any person with inside information about the Chinese lab suspected of leaking the coronavirus that caused a global pandemic.
House Republicans introduced legislation last week that would mandate the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program—which is best-known for placing bounties on the heads of global terrorist leaders—to give money to anyone with information about the coronavirus’s origins and the Chinese Communist Party’s subsequent cover-up.
The provision is part of a sprawling legislative package that would sanction China for its routine theft of American intellectual property and hacks on the U.S. government. House Republicans disclosed in a report this week that the virus likely leaked from a Wuhan lab engaged in controversial "gain of function" research, which genetically alters viruses to make them more contagious.
The legislation, called the Countering Communist China Act, was authored by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), Congress’s largest conservative caucus, and is backed by more than 30 House members. Many sections of the bill, including the section authorizing rewards for whistleblowers, could attract the support of Democrats, who have also been seeking to hold China accountable.
GOP leaders say a cash reward would incentivize those with knowledge about experiments at the Wuhan lab to anonymously step forward. The State Department program prides itself on protecting informants' identities and could help disclose how Beijing lied about the virus’s deadliness, covered up experiments on it, and systematically misled the world about its origins.
"The world needs to know the truth about the origins of COVID-19," Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chair of the RSC’s national security task force, told the Washington Free Beacon. "That’s why the RSC’s Countering Communist China Act includes provisions to use the Rewards for Justice Program to give cash rewards to those who come forward with credible information on the origins of COVID or the coverup at the Wuhan lab."
The bill seeks to crack down on the U.S. government’s ties to China, which have grown even amid the Communist Party’s ongoing efforts to hack Americans' personal and business data. As part of the legislation, all federal employees would be banned from participating in cultural exchange and educational trips to China.
Authorizations in the bill also permit the disclosure of classified information related to the coronavirus’s origins. A select congressional committee would be established to investigate the matter as well.
The bill would also instruct the Biden administration to assess whether China violated the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act by releasing the coronavirus.