Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced today that he will seek a recorded vote by the entire House of Representatives on his legislation to allow U.S. citizens the right to sue the Chinese government for its large-scale misrepresentation campaign during the coronavirus pandemic.
Smith’s announcement follows a recorded vote on his amendment (26 Democrats - No; 21 Republicans - Yes) held today by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which excluded it from the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act. The Committee’s party-line vote marked a historic first recorded vote in the House on the right to sue China for its gross lack of transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Smith, who fifteen months ago first introduced a bill nearly identical to his amendment. “We must get to the truth about what happened and those who were involved to bring justice to those who suffered greatly.”
During Committee debate on his legislation, Smith called attention to the deleterious consequences resulting from the Chinese government’s failure to be transparent amid the COVID-19 crisis, including the enormous loss of life caused by the pandemic, which killed over 26,000 in his home state of New Jersey; 600,000 across the country; and 4 million throughout the entire world.
“Knowing that China’s dictator Xi Jinping and his government systematically failed to be truthful and transparent, my amendment seeks to not only gain access to more information but also provide much-needed relief to the loved ones of those who died and others who have suffered severe economic loss during the pandemic,” said Smith, who has chaired 72 hearings on China’s egregious human rights abuses.
Smith’s amendment would waive the Foreign Immunities Act to empower United States citizens with the right to sue the Chinese government in U.S. courts for personal injury, death, monetary damages, or damage to or loss of property occurring in the U.S. as a result of the Chinese Communist Party’s willful or grossly negligent misrepresentation of information to the World Health Organization (WHO). The amendment would also apply to other countries who provide misinformation to the WHO about the nature, seriousness or communicability of an infectious disease.
“Besides damages paid to those individuals who have endured so much pain and loss, my amendment can bring discovery and the opportunity in court to ask probing questions that will hopefully lead to answers and help prevent this type of behavior in the future.”
Smith’s amendment parallels the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorist Act (JASTA)—legislation enacted by Congress in 2016 over the veto of President Obama allowing the families of 9/11 victims to seek justice against Saudi Arabia for aiding and abetting the terrorists involved in the horrific attacks.