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Lankford, Cotton, Colleagues Want to Sanction Chinese Officials Who Want to Suppress Information on COVID-19

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rick Scott (R-FL), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act, which would authorize the president to sanction foreign officials who suppress or distort information about international public health crises, particularly in light of Chinese information suppression efforts in the early stages of COVID-19 spread.

“The Chinese government’s efforts to suppress information about the coronavirus ultimately led to this pandemic,” said Lankford. “The Chinese Communist Party detained and arrested doctors who raised concerns instead of sharing information with the world and working collaboratively to contain the disease. We must hold foreign governments accountable, including China, for attempting to suppress information about public health emergencies, especially if that information can help prevent the loss of American lives.”

“Dr. Li tried to warn his country and the world about the coronavirus, but was silenced by the Chinese Communist Party. By hiding the truth about the virus, the CCP turned a regional health problem into a global catastrophe that has killed millions. To honor Dr. Li, our bill seeks to punish foreign officials responsible for suppressing information about international health crises, including the Wuhan virus,” said Cotton.

“Doctors and scientists across the world deserve robust protections that allow them to sound the alarm on international public health concerns without fear of government suppression,” said Tillis. “Dr. Li Wenliang heroically tried to warn Chinese citizens about COVID-19, only to be silenced by the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party until his tragic death. The Chinese government must be held accountable so no other nation feels emboldened to cover-up a public health crisis that can turn into a global pandemic. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this commonsense legislation.”

“Throughout the past year, we saw Communist China lie and spread propaganda in an attempt to cover up a global pandemic, silencing any and all who dared speak the truth. This legislation will give the United States the authority to sanction any foreign official who suppresses or distorts information about global health, like the Chinese Communist Government did. When lives are at risk, we can’t take any chances,” said Scott.

“The American people and the entire world deserve to know the origins of this pandemic, which China continues to cover up. We need to ensure there are real consequences for foreign officials who try to cover up their country’s role in an international crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic going forward,” said Daines.

“The Chinese Communist Party silenced Dr. Li and many others for attempting to speak the truth about the coronavirus outbreak and China’s involvement. Meanwhile, they stood by as the virus spread around the world—resulting in loss of life and loss of livelihood for millions. These actions by foreign governments to suppress those who provide pertinent information about public health crises are unacceptable, and they must be held accountable to the fullest extent,” said Blackburn.

Background

First introduced in May 2020, the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act is sanctions legislation modeled after the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. It would authorize the president to sanction foreign officials who suppress or distort information about international public health crises, including COVID-19. These sanctions include inadmissibility to the US, revocation of existing US visas, and the blocking of all property within the US. This bill would give Congress the authority to request that the president review specific foreign officials for sanctions eligibility. Within 120 days of receiving a request, the president must report to Congress on the intention to impose sanctions.

Lankford remains outspoken about the need for the US to remain vigilant against China’s actions. Lankford is a commissioner on the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). Last month, Lankford joined his colleagues to send a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai asking them to reverse the Biden Administration’s decision to give US COVID intellectual property to China. Lankford has advocated for de-funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology and ending US support for gain-of-function research.

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