A group of nine influential US senators has introduced a legislation in Congress seeking to authorise the President to impose sanctions on China if it fails to cooperate and provide a full accounting of the events leading up to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
More than 250,000 people have died and over 4 million infected due to the coronavirus pandemic around the world. The US is the worst-hit country with more than 80,000 deaths and 1.4 million cases, news agency PTI reported.
The Covid-19 Accountability Act, authored by Senator Lindsay Graham and co-sponsored by eight others, was introduced in the Senate -- the upper chamber of Congress, on Tuesday.
It mandates the President to make a certification to Congress within 60 days that China has provided a full and complete accounting to any Covid-19 investigation led by the US, its allies or the UN affiliates such as the World Health Organization and has closed all operating wet markets that have the potential to expose humans to health risks through the introduction of zoonotic disease into the human population.
Without the certification, the President would be authorised to impose a range of sanctions such as asset freezes, travel bans, visa revocations, restricting United States financial institutions from making loans or underwriting to Chinese businesses and prohibiting Chinese firms from being listed on American stock exchanges.
"I'm convinced that without the Chinese Communist Party deception, the virus would not be here in the United States," said Graham.
"China refuses to allow the international community to go into the Wuhan lab to investigate. They refuse to allow investigators to study how this outbreak started. I'm convinced China will never cooperate with a serious investigation unless they are made to do so. This hard-hitting piece of legislation will sanction China until they cooperate with the investigators," he said.
"We must determine how the virus came about and take steps, like closing the wet markets, to ensure it never happens again. It's time we push back against China and hold them accountable. More than eighty thousand Americans are dead and millions more are jobless today because of China's failure to contain and prevent the spread of the virus," Graham said.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) must be held accountable for the detrimental role they played in this pandemic. Their outright deception of the origin and spread of the virus cost the world valuable time and lives as it began to spread, Senator Jim Inhofe said.
"The Covid-19 Accountability Act will force China to provide a full account of the events leading up to this devastating outbreak. America is strong and we will come out of this crisis, but China must be forced to face the facts and take accountability for their actions," he said.
Inhofe said that the CPC has proven time and again that it will only cooperate when forced.
The CPC's continued suppression of the truth amidst the coronavirus outbreak cannot go unchecked, said Senator Roger Wicker.
This legislation would authorise the President to take appropriate actions against the Chinese government to ensure similar outbreaks do not happen in the future, he said.
This legislation is about taking necessary actions against China to hold them accountable for the cover up of the Covid-19 outbreak and to prevent the spread of future pandemics, said Senator Steve Daines.
"We must send a clear and strong message to China that there will be consequences for their reckless actions," he said.
The Chinese government engaged in one of the biggest cover-ups in modern historylying to the world and allowing the spread of the Covid-19 outside its borders, said Senator Thom Tillis.
The CPC's mistakes enabled the coronavirus to grow from a local issue to a global pandemic. Instead of being transparent, Chinese diplomats are sharing propaganda. It is clear that China intends to use this crisis to their advantage by extending their influence around the world, Senator Todd Young said.
"China must be more forthcoming as investigations begin and we endeavor to learn lessons from this disaster. This legislation will demonstrate to the communist regime in Beijing that the world needs answers on how this pandemic started and spread misery across the globe," said Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
"I know firsthand China doesn't play fair from building a business for 38 years, and their failure to operate on-the-level regarding Covid-19 has caused untold global devastation, said Senator Mike Braun.