UPDATE 02. June 2020: Leaked WHO files show China 'delayed releasing important information' about virus

ICYMI: Thousands sign up to US class action to sue China over coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Wuhan Laboratory: The CCP Lies, Here Is the Evidence

Big-eared-townsend-fledermausChinese propaganda has launched an international offensive of fake news to counter “enormous evidence” that the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory.

By  - 04. May 2020

Table of Contents

A “marginal” theory moves to the mainline

On March 17, 2020, Bitter Winter told the story of how a paper on the virus responsible for COVID-19 by two respected Chinese scientists, Dr. Botao Xiao from South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, and Dr. Lei Xiao, from Wuhan University of Science and Technology, was first uploaded and then cancelled from the international scholarly database ResearchGate. The paper regarded it as probable that the virus might have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Bitter Winter and other international media that covered the Xiao and Xiao incident were promptly attacked by the CCP and its fellow travelers throughout the world, which claimed that “mainline science” had “conclusively proved” that the virus had not been artificially created in a laboratory, and that such “conspiracy theories” had been “debunked.” The two Xiaos were compelled to state they had been wrong.

Three weeks have passed, and what might have looked like a marginal hypothesis is now the official theory about the origin of the virus of the government of the United States, with Secretary of State Pompeo claiming it is backed by “enormous evidence.” Somebody may object that this is just part of the American electoral campaign, but in Australia The Saturday Telegraph, the Saturday edition of one of the country’s largest newspaper, The Daily Telegraphobtained and summarized a report prepared by the “five eyes,” i.e. the intelligence services of the U.S.A., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with similar findings. Most international media upgraded the Wuhan laboratory theory from “fake news” or “conspiracy theory” to “reliable hypothesis.”

Predictably, the enormous international propaganda apparatus of the CCP is not sitting idle. It is massively answering, once again, that “science” has proved that the Wuhan laboratory theory is false. What is false here is, however, the Chinese propaganda. It cleverly creates confusion between two different theories. It is thus all-important to understand how this propaganda operates.

Theory 1: A laboratory in Wuhan artificially created the virus

The CCP uses a well-known propaganda tactic: it lumps together two different theories, and by criticizing one it tries to eliminate the other as well. The first theory is that one of two laboratories in Wuhan, probably the Wuhan Institute of Virology, created the virus as a biological weapon. Then, China either intentionally released the virus, or it escaped the laboratory accidentally.

This theory has been criticized by most scientists who have studied the coronavirus. They claim that man-made viruses, no matter how cleverly produced, keep traces of human manipulation, and no such traces have been found in the virus responsible for the present pandemic.

We at Bitter Winter are not virologists. We do not play the amateur virologist game either, and have no reason to doubt the words of what seems to be a majority of credentialed scientists in the field. We maintain that minority positions should also be expressed, and criticized, freely, and that there is no reason for social media and others to prevent the expression of admittedly fringe or marginal theories on the virus, while they allow bizarre conspiracy theories on a variety of other subjects to circulate. This is, however, not the point here. This is Theory 1, and what we presented in Bitter Winter and Western governments are embracing today is Theory 2.

Theory 2: A natural virus was stored in a Wuhan laboratory, and “escaped” from there

Theory 2 is that the virus responsible for COVID-19 was found in nature, most probably in bats. It was not created in a laboratory. There is ample evidence, however, that a laboratory in Wuhan collected and stored viruses that had infected bats, as well as the infected bats themselves. There is evidence that some of these viruses were at least remarkably similar to the one responsible for COVID-19. There is also evidence that security in the Wuhan laboratories was lower than international standards dictate.

Theory 2 suggests that the virus was stored in a Wuhan laboratory and “escaped” from it. There are many possibilities. A bat may have escaped, or the virus may have contaminated somebody working in the laboratory, who then infected others.

Let us repeat it once again, Theory 2 is different from Theory 1. It does not assume that the virus is man-made. The objection that man-made viruses leave traces, and that no such traces have been found, may be effective against Theory 1 but says nothing against Theory 2.

Some scientists still maintain that transmission of a virus that originated in animals to humans is much easier in a wet market than in a laboratory. They may be right, but they have not personally inspected the security environment of the Wuhan laboratories. Also, we hear more and more about leaked documents and conversations within the CCP and Chinese intelligence officers suggesting that the Chinese authorities themselves were considering the leak from a laboratory in Wuhan as a serious possibility.

Conclusion: The CCP lies as usual

Did science “debunk” the theory of the Wuhan laboratory? Mainline scientists criticized Theory 1, but their criticism does not affect Theory 2. Claiming that Theory 2 had been “debunked” by “science” is just CCP propaganda. Entertaining the confusion between Theory 1 and Theory 2 is typical CCP strategy.

Has Theory 2 been “proved”? We never said so, and the notion of “proof” in science is more complicated than in a court of law. We maintained that Theory 2 is possible and perhaps probable, and that the objections against Theory 1 never applied to Theory 2.

Ultimately, Theory 2 relies on the likelihood of an accident, not on traces that can be found in the virus. Scientists will not be able to prove Theory 2. But they will not be able to disprove it either. Evidence corroborating Theory 2 may come in the future from Chinese internal documents obtained by foreign intelligence agencies, or from Chinese defectors. It is more than possible that some of this evidence, as Mr. Pompeo and others implied, is already in the hands of Western leaders. If it is so, we hope that it will be presented to the world as early as possible, and that no amount of Chinese pressure or threat of commercial retaliation would prevent this necessary disclosure.

Author:

Massimo Introvigne

 (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

www.cesnur.org/

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UPDATES:

China delayed releasing crucial coronavirus information, leaked WHO files show

Vital data was withheld for over a week while virus spread ever more rapidly

By Associated Press - 02. June 2020
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the WHO, meets with China’s Xi Jinping in Beijing in January
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the WHO, meets with China’s Xi Jinping in Beijing in January ( AP )

Throughout January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the coronavirus and thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately”.

But in fact, Chinese officials sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the deadly virus for over a week after multiple government labs had fully decoded it, not sharing details key to designing tests, drugs and vaccines. Strict controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were largely to blame, internal documents, emails and dozens of interviews show.

Health officials only released the genome after a Chinese lab published it ahead of authorities on a virology website on 11 January. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on giving the WHO the details it needed, according to recordings of multiple internal meetings held by the UN health agency in January – all at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed.

Although the WHO continued to publicly commend China, the recordings, obtained by the Associated Press, show they were concerned China was not sharing enough information to assess the risk posed by the new virus, costing the world valuable time.

“We’re currently at the stage where yes, they’re giving it to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” said the WHO’s top official in China, Dr Gauden Galea, referring to the state-owned China Central Television, in one meeting.

The story behind the early response to the pandemic comes at a time when the UN health agency is under siege. Donald Trump cut US ties with the WHO on Friday, after blasting the agency for allegedly colluding with China to hide the extent of the epidemic. Chinese president Xi Jinping said China has always provided information to WHO and the world “in a most timely fashion”.

The new information does not support the narrative of either the US or China, but portrays an agency now stuck in the middle that was urgently trying to solicit more data. Although international law obliges countries to report information to the WHO that could have an impact on public health, the UN agency has no enforcement powers. Instead, it must rely on the cooperation of member states.

Rather than colluding with China, the WHO was itself largely kept in the dark, as China gave it only the minimal information required. But the agency did attempt to portray China in the best light, most likely to coax the country into providing more outbreak details.

WHO officials worried about how to press China for more information without angering authorities or jeopardising Chinese scientists, whom they praised for decoding the genome with astonishing speed. Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said the best way to “protect China” was for the WHO to do its own independent analysis, because otherwise the spread of the virus between people would be in question and “other countries will take action accordingly”.

From the time the virus was first decoded on 2 January to when the WHO declared a global emergency on 30 January, the outbreak grew by a factor of 100 to 200, according to retrospective Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

The WHO and officials named in this story declined to answer questions asked by the Associated Press without audio or written transcripts of the recorded meetings, which the Associated Press was unable to supply to protect its sources.

“Our leadership and staff have worked night and day to support and share information with all member states equally, and engage in frank and forthright conversations with governments at all levels,” a WHO statement said.

China’s National Health Commission and Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no comment. But in the past few months, China has repeatedly defendedits actions, and many other countries – including the US – have responded to the virus with even longer delays of weeks and even months.

In late December, doctors noticed mysterious clusters of patients with unusual pneumonia. Seeking answers, they sent samples to commercial labs. By 27 December, one company, Vision Medicals, had pieced together most of the genome of a new virus with striking similarities to Sars. They alerted Wuhan officials, who, days later, issued internal notices warning of the unusual pneumonia.

On 30 December, Shi Zhengli, a renowned coronavirus expert at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was alerted to the disease, and by 2 January her team had fully decoded it.

But when it came to sharing the genome with the world, things went awry. China’s top medical authority, the National Health Commission, issued a confidential notice forbidding labs from publishing about the virus without authorisation. The order barred Ms Shi’s lab from publishing the sequence or warning of the possible danger.

Commission officials later said the order was to prevent any accidental release of the then-unknown pathogen, and to ensure consistent results by giving it to four state labs to identify at the same time.

By 5 January, two other government labs sequenced the virus, and another lab in Shanghai led by Zhang Yongzhen had also decoded it. Mr Zhang warned the National Health Commission the virus was “likely infectious”. The Chinese CDC raised its emergency level to the second highest, but did not have the authority to alert the public.

Suspicious cases starting surfacing across the region. In Thailand, airport officials pulled aside a woman travelling from Wuhan with a runny nose, sore throat and high temperature. Scientists at Chulalongkorn University soon figured out she was infected with a new coronavirus, but did not have a sequence from China to match it.

WHO officials, meanwhile, grumbled in internal meetings that China was stalling on providing crucial outbreak details even though it was technically meeting its obligations under international law. Dr Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said it was time to “shift gears” and push for more information.

“The danger now is that despite our good intent ... there will be a lot of finger-pointing at WHO if something does happen,” he said.

On 11 January, Shanghai’s Mr Zhang finally published the coronavirus sequence ahead of health authorities on virological.org, used by researchers to swap tips on pathogens. It was only then that the Chinese CDC, Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences raced to publish their sequences, doing so on 12 January.

On 20 January, Chinese authorities warned the virus spread between people. The WHO dispatched a small team to Wuhan from its Asia offices. China representative Galea told colleagues the Chinese were “talking openly and consistently about human-to-human transmission”.

The WHO’s emergency committee of independent experts met twice that week and decided against recommending an emergency. But the agency’s concern prompted an unusual trip to Beijing by WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and top scientists.

At the end of Mr Tedros’s trip, the WHO convened another emergency meeting, finally declaring a global emergency on 30 January. Mr Tedros thanked China profusely, declining to mention any of WHO’s earlier frustrations.

“We should have actually expressed our respect and gratitude to Chinafor what it’s doing,” he said. “It has already done incredible things to limit the transmission of the virus to other countries.”

Watch more

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Leaked WHO files show China 'delayed releasing important information' about virus

By Tom Cheshire 02. June 2020

China delayed releasing important coronavirus information during the early days of the outbreak, according to leaked WHO documents and recordings of WHO meetings obtained by the Associated Press (AP).

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting a health centre in Beijing during the pandemicChinese President Xi Jinping visiting a health centre in Beijing during the pandemic © Reuters 

The delay led to frustration for officials in the World Health Organisation (WHO), even as they publicly praised China for its transparency.

The country waited more than one week before publishing the genome of the novel coronavirus on 11 January, despite the fact three different government labs had fully sequenced the genetic code.

"Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents," AP reported.

And for two weeks afterwards, China also delayed providing the WHO with more detailed data on patients and cases, according to the recordings, making it difficult for officials to judge whether the virus could spread between people, and what risk it might mean for the rest of the world.

a group of people in a room: The outbreak began in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. File picThe outbreak began in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. File pic © Imagebridge 

One WHO official reportedly complained: "We're going on very minimal information. It's clearly not enough for you to do proper planning."

AP said: "WHO staffers debated how to press China for gene sequences and detailed patient data without angering authorities, worried about losing access and getting Chinese scientists into trouble."

The Chinese government did not comment on AP's report, but has repeatedly said it has acted transparently.

"Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been continuously sharing information on the epidemic with the WHO, and the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner," said Liu Mingzhu, an official with the National Health Commission's International Department, at a news briefing on 15 May.

In a statement, the WHO said: "Our leadership and staff have worked night and day in compliance with the organisation's rules and regulations to support and share information with all member states equally, and engage in frank and forthright conversations with governments at all levels."

a group of people sitting on a bed: In China, 4,638 have died with the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins UniversityIn China, 4,638 have died with the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University © Imagebridge 

International law requires countries to report information that may affect public health but the WHO does not have enforcement powers.

Officials compared China's lack of cooperation with other countries.

"This would not happen in Congo and did not happen in Congo and other places," Dr Michael Ryan, WHO's chief of emergencies, told colleagues in the second week of January, according to the report.

"We need to see the data. It's absolutely important at this point."

The Wuhan Institute of Virology sequenced the genome of the virus by 2 January - a short time after the first efforts to decode the genetic map of the virus began in late December, and other labs were also racing to sequence the genome.

On 3 January, the Chinese National Health Commission issued a secret notice ordering labs studying the virus to destroy their samples or send them to approved institutes.

The notice also banned labs from publishing information about the virus without the approval of the government.

By the end of 5 January, three other Chinese labs had sequenced it, including the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

According to AP, the Shanghai Public Clinical Health Center notified the National Health Commission that, according to the sequence: "It should be contagious through respiratory passages. We recommend taking preventative measures in public areas."

The genetic sequence was finally published on 11 January by the Shanghai lab, a move which angered officials at the Chinese CDC. The Shanghai lab was temporarily closed by authorities.

It was not until 20 January that Chinese authorities confirmed sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus and Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the "timely publication of epidemic information and deepening of international cooperation".

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PREVIOUS:

Editor: Is this an attempt to row back?

Suing China over the coronavirus won’t help. Here’s what can work.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects a factory production line on Tuesday in Laoxian township in Ankang in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province.
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects a factory production line on Tuesday in Laoxian township in Ankang in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province. (Ju Peng/Xinhua News Agency via AP)

By John B. Bellinger III - 23. April 2020

At least six lawsuits have been filed against China in U.S. federal courts seeking damages for deaths, injuries and economic losses caused by covid-19. Members of Congress have drafted legislation to strip China of its immunity from suit in U.S. courts. Even if enacted, these congressional efforts are unlikely to pave the way for successful lawsuits — and they could prompt China to take reciprocal measures against the United States. China should be held accountable in other ways, including through diplomatic pressure and a thorough U.S. investigation of Beijing’s role in concealing and failing to stop the spread of covid-19.

Five of the lawsuits against China — filed in California, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Texas — are class-action suits filed on behalf of persons and businesses in the United States who have suffered injury, damage and loss related to the coronavirus outbreak. Missouri has sued China on similar grounds on behalf of itself and residents, and Mississippi has indicated that it plans to file proceedings. These suits are likely to be dismissed because foreign governments enjoy immunity from suit in U.S. courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The 1976 statute codifies long-standing principles of U.S. and international law that sovereign governments may not be sued in courts of other countries. The lawsuits claim to fall within statutory exceptions to immunity for tortious or commercial acts in the United States. But these arguments are likely to fail because there is no evidence that China committed deliberately wrongful acts in the United States or that covid-19 arose from China’s commercial activities here.

To overcome these legal obstacles, several members of Congress, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), have drafted legislation that would strip a foreign government of immunity for any acts intended to conceal or distort information about the existence or nature of the coronavirus. Hawley has suggested that the Chinese Communist Party unleashed the covid-19 pandemic and that “we need to empower Americans and other victims around the world to recover damages.” The Cotton and Hawley bills appear to be modeled on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (known as JASTA) that Congress passed in 2016, overriding a presidential veto, to allow lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and other governments for aiding acts of international terrorism.

Whatever the political temptation to allow lawsuits against China, especially during an election year, Congress should resist doing so. Sovereign immunity is based on reciprocity. The United States respects the principle of sovereign immunity not as a favor to other countries but because we expect other countries to respect and protect the immunity of the United States and its officials in their countries. The United States has protested vehemently when other nations have allowed investigations of the U.S. government or its officials for controversial military actions. If Congress allows lawsuits against China to proceed here, China may well retaliate by allowing lawsuits against the U.S. government or its officials in China for claiming that China had intentionally manufactured covid-19.

Congress should also remember that, after voting for JASTA in 2016, some Republican lawmakers immediately expressed misgivings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said removing the immunity of foreign governments could have “unintended ramifications” and tried to blame the Obama administration for “failure to communicate early about the potential consequences.” If Congress repeals China’s sovereign immunity in the heat of this election year, the U.S. government is likely to regret it later.

Even if Congress were to strip China of its immunity, lawsuits against China are unlikely ever to result in payments to Americans injured by covid-19. In the unlikely event of a court judgment against China, the Chinese government would refuse to pay any award, leading to years of litigation in U.S. courts (likely embroiling U.S. banks and businesses) to seize Chinese assets in the United States.

Opposing lawsuits against China does not mean that the U.S. government should not hold the Chinese government responsible in other ways. Legal immunity does not mean a lack of accountability. The Hawley bill, for example, would mandate a government investigation into China’s role in concealing or distorting information about covid-19. Better still would be a bipartisan commission, modeled on the 9/11 Commission, with a mandate to investigate the causes and spread of coronavirus and U.S. preparedness for and responses to the pandemic. It could make recommendations toward preventing and addressing future pandemics.

The United States should also publicly demand, including in international bodies, that China provide more information about covid-19. It should push other governments to do the same. U.S. officials should privately insist to Chinese counterparts that China must be transparent and cooperative with respect to global health issues in the future. Assertive U.S. diplomatic action is more likely to produce meaningful results for Americans than politically attractive, but ultimately feckless, lawsuits and battles over sovereign immunity.

Author:

John B. Bellinger III is a partner with Arnold & Porter and an adjunct senior fellow in international and national security law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was legal adviser for the State Department from 2005 to 2009 and legal adviser for the National Security Council from 2001 to 2005 in the George W. Bush administration.

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Coronavirus, the State of Missouri Sues China—and CCP

The lawsuit names as co-defendant the Chinese Communist Party, as Bitter Winter suggested, and adds the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

By  - 22. April 2020

 

The courthouse for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (credits).

On April 21, 2020, the State of Missouri filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division against the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the CCP, the National Health Commission of the PRC, the Ministry of Emergency Management of the PRC, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the PRC, the People’s Government of Hubei Province, the People’s Government of Wuhan City, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The complaint notes that, “An appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance, and inaction by Chinese authorities unleashed this pandemic. During the critical weeks of the initial outbreak, Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistleblowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment—thus causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable.” Defendants should thus be held “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians, and they should be held accountable.” The lawsuit asks the court to determine the damages, but states that Missourians “have suffered billions and possibly tens of billions of dollars in economic damages, as well as substantial non-economic damages.”

What is interesting in the Missouri lawsuit, which is the most serious attempt to-date to claim damages from China, is that it names as defendants not only a sovereign state, the PRC, and ministries and local branches of the PRC, but also the CCP, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The PRC and its national and local branches are in principle covered by the immunity clause for sovereign states but, as Bitter Winter noted in its past coverage of this legal issue, in the U.S. the clause is not without exceptions.

The exception the Missouri complaint relies on is the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), which provides that,  “(a) A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of courts of the United States or of the States in any case— … (2) in which the action is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or upon an act performed in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere; or upon an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the United States.” The State of Missouri argues that the operation of healthcare system in China, since Chinese citizens pay for it, is a “commercial activity,” and that using paid agents to infiltrate social media with fake news and manipulating the international market of masks and other devices needed for the pandemic are also commercial activities.

The first comments on the Missouri lawsuit, including by Yale professor of law Lea Brilmayer, are that it would be difficult for the court to assert jurisdiction over China as a sovereign state. However, Missouri also sued the CCP and other nonstate entities, something Bitter Winter was the first to suggest as a strategy to circumvent the sovereign immunity China as a state may claim.

The Missouri complaint notes that, “the Communist Party is not an organ or political subdivision of the PRC, nor is it owned by the PRC or a political subdivision of the PRC, and thus it is not protected by sovereign immunity.” It also quotes a precedent, Yaodi Hu v. Communist Party of China [2012 WL 7160373, at *3 (W.D. Mich. Nov. 20, 2012)], holding that the CCP is not entitled to immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Missouri also seeks damages from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which “administers the Wuhan Institute,” noting that, “since at least November 2019, the Wuhan Institute has conducted research on coronaviruses,” “cables from the United States Department of State have warned of safety concerns at the Wuhan Institute,” and “the United States is currently conducting a full-scale investigation into whether the novel coronavirus, which went on to morph into a global pandemic that has brought the global economy to its knees, escaped from the Wuhan Institute.”

The claims against the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences requires proofs that the virus in fact “escaped from the Wuhan Institute,” something that was once dismissed as a conspiracy theory but is now taken very seriously in the United States, as the lawsuit demonstrates. Note that this claim is not incompatible with scientific findings that the virus is of animal origin, rather than created in a laboratory, since an infected animal affected by a natural virus and being studied there may have escaped from the Wuhan laboratory.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Republican Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley, introduced a federal bill that would strip China of its sovereign immunity and create a private right of action for American entities and citizens against the CCP. Earlier in April. Senator Hawley, together with Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Representatives John Curtis (R-Utah), Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), Ted Yoho (R-Florida), Jim Banks (R-IN), and Liz Cheney (R-WY) 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, including the Wuhan coronavirus.

Author:

Massimo Introvigne

 (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

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Thousands sign up to US class action to sue China over coronavirus

Chinese President Xi Jinping

The Chinese Communist Party's lack of transparency has caused anger in some parts of the world.(AP: Xie Huanchi Via Xinhua)

Thousands of Americans have reportedly signed onto a class action lawsuit in the US state of Florida which seeks compensation from the Chinese Government for COVID-19 damages, as Western politicians increasingly call for accountability.

Key points:

  • The Chinese Government is accused of covering up COVID-19 in the early stages
  • But Beijing has repeatedly denied suppressing information
  • Conservative law firms and think tanks in Western countries are demanding financial compensation

According to a statement from the Miami-based Berman Law Group, the lawsuit "seeks billions of dollars in compensatory damages for those who have suffered personal injuries, wrongful deaths, property damage and other damages due to China's failure to contain the COVID-19 virus, despite their ability to have stopped the spread of the virus in its early stages".

The firm said it "looks forward to fighting for the rights of people and businesses across Florida and the rest of the country, who are now becoming sick or caring for loved ones, dealing with financial calamity, and navigating this new world of panic and social distancing and isolation".

The US has by far the world's largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 740,000 infections and more than 41,000 deaths.

A separate class action lodged on behalf of Las Vegas businesses is seeking billions of dollars in damages on behalf of five local businesses.

The lawsuit claims that China's Government should have shared more information about the virus but intimidated doctors, scientists, journalists and lawyers while allowing the COVID-19 respiratory illness to spread.

The Chinese Government has repeatedly denied suppressing information in the early days of the crisis, saying it immediately reported the outbreak to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Experts say that China's rigid controls on information, bureaucratic hurdles and a reluctance to send bad news up the chain of command muffled early warnings.

Authorities shamed eight doctors for "rumour-mongering" in a national television broadcast on January 2.

An investigation by the Associated Press released last week showed that the head of China's National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, described a "severe and complex" situation, which he compared to the 2003 SARS outbreak, during a confidential teleconference with provincial health officials on January 14.

It was not until January 20, however, that President Xi Jinping warned the public of a likely epidemic.

"Our lawsuit addresses those who have been physically injured from exposure to the virus … [and] also addresses the commercial activity China has engaged in around the 'wet markets' trade," the Voice of America quoted a Berman Law Group spokesperson as saying, adding that more than 5,000 Americans had joined the class action by late March.

It has been argued that the virus originated at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan.

But Yale University law professor Stephen L Carter said that regardless of alleged culpability, as a nation state, China was immune from being sued.

A resident wearing mask and suit against the coronavirus cycles in Wuhan.

Life in Wuhan is returning to normal, but there are doubts China's relationship with the world will be the same after the pandemic.(AP: Ng Han Guan)

British think tank, German newspaper call for compensation

A report released earlier this month by the Henry Jackson Society, a conservative British think tank, argued that the G7 nations could sue China for 3.2 trillion pounds ($6.3 trillion).

It claimed that Australia could file for more than $58 billion in damages.

German newspaper editor accuses Xi Jinping of "endangering the world" (Courtesy: Bild.De)

The former boss of Britain's intelligence agency MI6, John Sawers, also said China's Government should be held responsible for the pandemic, given its early efforts to cover up the crisis.

"There is deep anger in America at what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially," Mr Sawers told the BBC.

"Intelligence is about acquiring information which has been concealed from you by other states and other actors, there was a brief period in December and January when the Chinese were indeed concealing this from the West."

The German tabloid Bild, which is the most-read newspaper in Europe, published an "invoice" for China requesting 24 billion euros ($41 billion) for lost tourism revenue in March and April, 50 billion euros ($86 billion) for small business, and a further 149 billion euros ($255 billion) if German GDP falls by 4.2 per cent in 2020 as projected.

In an "open letter" to Mr Xi, the newspaper wrote that "your Government and your scientists had to know long ago that corona[virus] is highly infectious, but you left the world in the dark about it".

"Your top experts didn't respond when Western researchers asked to know what was going on in Wuhan."

Marise Payne says the international community should look at the origins of the pandemic.

Calls for financial compensation come as Western governments increasingly demand accountability from Beijing.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne over the weekend voiced her support for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, which she said should not be conducted by WHO, and called upon China to allow transparency in the process.

Her comments came after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton saidhe thought there would be a "reset about the way in which the world interacts with China".

"We do want more transparency," he said.

President Donald Trump has also been stepping up his criticism of China, saying its Government should face consequences if it was "knowingly responsible" for the pandemic.

"It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn't, and the whole world is suffering because of it," Mr Trump told a daily White House briefing.

He has referenced a theory that the virus was accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, although the overwhelming weight of scientific research so far points to the coronavirus originally stemming from animals.

The Trump administration and senior Australian ministers have also been overtly critical of the WHO's management of the crisis.

Mr Trump said last week the US would withdraw funding from the UN agency for being too "China-centric".

The Virus - is it?

Related Stories

Payne wants transparent probe into coronavirus origins independent of WHO

Key points:

  • Ms Payne said an inquiry into the outbreak should be run independently of the WHO
  • The WHO has faced international criticism of its handling of the pandemic
  • Labor backed the push and urged the Government to secure the support of other nations

Could this pandemic reset the way the entire world interacts with China? Some politicians think it's inevitable

===

Republicans try for political leverage over China with bill allowing Americans to sue for ‘damage they caused’ with coronavirus

By RT - 17. April 2020

Republicans try for political leverage over China with bill allowing Americans to sue for ‘damage they caused’ with coronavirus

Office workers wear protective gear near Beijing's Central Business District as the spread of the new coronavirus disease continues in China ©  Reuters / Thomas Peter

Republican officials Tom Cotton and Dan Crenshaw have introduced a bill sure to stir up tensions between the US and China that would allow American citizens to sue for ‘damages’ caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The senator from Arkansas and the representative from Texas, both vocal critics of the Chinese government, want to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to create an exception for people to recover “damages caused by China’s dangerous handling of the Covid-19  outbreak.”

The Immunities Act protects foreign nations and their official agencies from being sued in US courts.

Cotton says China is an exception to the law because “by silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe.”

Republicans and President Donald Trump barraged Beijing with criticism for being too slow to respond to the crisis and endangering the rest of the world, even hinting that the virus might have been created in a lab there. Cotton was one of the lawmakers who actively talked about this theory, although admitting there was no evidence.

Although Cotton and Crenshaw say lawsuits from American citizens would allow them to “recover damages for death, injury, and economic harm caused by the Wuhan Virus," the goal of the bill is to get more leverage.

The lawmakers said the potential “private suits” could be dismissed if the country agrees to pay the US “damage it has caused.”

“If the United States and China come to an agreement to settle the claims, then the private suits could be dismissed. In other words, China can take responsibility and agree to pay for the damage it has caused, or it can face potentially millions of claims in federal court,” the lawmakers said in a joint announcement. 

The legislation introduced could turn out to be a political nightmare marred down by grey areas in the law as it is modeled after the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act of 2016, which allows families affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks to sue countries they deemed responsible. That bill has faced uphill battles, especially when families sought to sue Saudi Arabia alleging the government had prior knowledge of the attack and included Al-Qaeda sympathizers and organizers.

President Barack Obama vetoed the lawsuit to prevent it from going forward, but Congress voted to override the veto for the first and only time during the former president’s time in office.

If the bill manages to get through the almost guaranteed bipartisan political hurdles, there is the potential for the legislation to grow, as the US has a history of similarly broadening laws targeting specific countries. 

The Magnitsky Act, for instance, was initially passed in 2012 to punish those considered to be behind Russian accountant Sergey Magnitsky's death in a Russian jail, but was expanded in 2016 to fight corruption and human rights violations on a global scale.

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Coronavirus, China Kept It Secret for Six Fatal Days

The CCP realized a pandemic was developing on January 13. In a secret meeting on January 14, it decided not to disclose the information, until January 20. The move costed the world tens of thousands of deaths.

By  - 16. April 2020


The world-record potluck banquet held in Wuhan on January 18, 2020, with more than 40,000 families in attendance, was a crucial factor in spreading the virus (from Weibo).

On April 15, 2020, the Associated Press announced that it had obtained from unnamed Chinese sources, and verified as authentic, documents confirming that the CCP, under personal instructions from President Xi Jinping, waited six days, from January 14 to January 20, before disclosing information about the COVID-19 pandemic. These six days were crucial, both for China and the world. It was during these six days that the city of Wuhan tried to break a Guinness world record by hosting the largest potluck banquet ever, attended by more than 40,000 families, and millions traveled from the city in preparation for the Chinese New Year festivities. Without the six-day delay, this would not have happened, and the epidemics might have been contained in Wuhan, without spreading through the whole world.

What happened exactly, and why? We know that the first case of what was later identified of COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan on November 17, 2019, and in December local doctors started contacting the authorities, telling them that a new deadly coronavirus was at work, and posting their findings on the Internet. As a result, they were arrested on January 1. This intimidated the doctors in Wuhan, who failed to report new cases, even if they were well aware of them.

While preventing doctors to speak about it, Beijing was aware of what was going on. The Associated Press reports that it sent two teams of experts to Wuhan. The head of the first one, Xu Jianguo, told the Hong Kong newspaper Takungpao on January 6, that everything was under control and that there was “absolutely no chance” that travel from Wuhan would spread the disease elsewhere (the link we provide may not work, as Takungpao is controlled by the CCP and may now have removed the article). The CCP itself was not fully persuaded, and sent a second team of experts on January 8. His head, Wang Guangfa, appeared in televisionon January 10 to state that it was just a “pneumonia,” with “mild symptoms” and “under control.” He fell ill with COVID-19 himself in late January. On March 15, he posted on Weibo, that in fact he “always suspected”that the virus was spreading quickly from human to human—but was not allowed to tell the public.

It seems that, until January 13, the CCP believed that it would be possible to suppress the information about the virus, as long as it was confined to Wuhan. What persuaded the CCP that this would not be possible was a case detected in Thailand on January 13. If the virus was spreading abroad, suppressing information was no longer possible. On January 14, the head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, held a secret teleconference with provincial health officials, and distributed a memo that has now been leaked to the Associated Press. He told them that he was forwarding instructions coming directly from President Xi Jinping, and that Xi was aware that what was developing was “the most severe [health] challenge since SARS in 2003,” and that “human-to-human transmission is possible.” Ma used the word “pandemic,” and insisted that keeping social stability and preparing for the provincial and national CCP congresses was paramount. He admitted, however, that the case in Thailand had “changed significantly” the situation.

The Associated Press has also obtained a 63-page document sent by the National Health Commission to provincial health officials shortly after Ma’s teleconference, detailing instructions on how to deal with a serious epidemic, without “publicly disclosing” nor mentioning on the Internet what was going on. The result was that data started flowing to Beijing showing that travelers from Wuhan had spread the virus to several other cities and provinces. Finally, on January 20, President Xi Jinping and his top health advisers went public and told China and the world about the epidemic.

By no means we can consider the six-day delay as short. Between January 13 and 20, thousands were infected in Wuhan, if not tens of thousands, and allowed to travel to other Chinese provinces and abroad. If we are all locked down throughout the world, mourning the deaths of relatives and friends, it is largely because President Xi and the CCP kept secret the information about the virus for political reasons, until it was too late.

Author:

Massimo Introvigne

 (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

===

Targeting China over Covid-19, US & UK open Pandora’s Box … they’re responsible for a LOT MORE disasters, will THEY pay for that?

Targeting China over Covid-19, US & UK open Pandora’s Box …  they’re responsible for a LOT MORE disasters, will THEY pay for that?By Finian Cunningham - 09. April 2020

The US and UK are emerging as the worst-hit nations from the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of admitting inherent failings and facing public accountability, the narrative is to blame it all on China and even demand compensation.

study by the rightwing London-based Henry Jackson Society claims that China is liable to pay at least $4 trillion in compensation for economic damage incurred by other nations. The neoconservative think tank echoes similar views among US anti-China hawks who accuse Beijing of disinformation and covering up the initial outbreak of the disease back in December.

A British parliamentary foreign affairs committee report made the same conclusion, alleging Chinese disinformation “has cost lives.”

Such views tally with President Trump’s insistence on labelling the Covid-19 pandemic the “Chinese Flu.” His administration has hinted at future litigation against China over the costs of the disease. In similar vein, Trump has intimated he will sanction future US financial contributions to the World Health Organization because of its alleged “China-centric” position and its alleged misdirection about the scale of the pandemic.

Beijing has hit back, accusing American and British politicians of complacency in not adequately preparing their countries’ public defenses against Covid-19. China can point to the apparent arrest of the epidemic on its territory as a vindication of its strategy to combat the disease.

Whatever about claims that China downplayed the initial reports of a new viral disease, it seems wackily disproportionate for the US and British authorities to lay the whole of its problems on this cause.

Both Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who is in hospital in intensive care with the disease – are on record for having belittled the gravity of Covid-19 in the weeks before the pandemic hit their nations with force.

There are also reports that US intelligence agencies had provided “multiple” warnings of a “cataclysmic event” to the Pentagon and the White House from as early as November 2019 owing to a new disease outbreak in China.

There is too the ultimate background of chronically rundown public health services in the US and Britain. Trump had in particular relegated the Center for Disease Control and deprioritized homeland security agencies concerned with biodefense.

In Britain, as journalist and documentary film-maker John Pilger points out, Conservative governments have systematically underfunded the National Health Service over the past decade. A 2016 study alerting the NHS to the danger of an overwhelming epidemic was suppressed.

There is thus plenty of culpability to be found in US and British government policies for the present crisis without invoking alleged Chinese malfeasance.

Avoiding a brutal backlash from their own citizens for inherent failure to protect public health, the temptation to offload responsibility on others is irresistible, especially for Trump and his demagogic style.

Moreover with Trump’s irascible personality and his vainglorious claims about “America First”going up in smoke as the economy nosedives, it is all the more appealing to scapegoat China.

The same goes for Britain where plans for putative Brexit national renewal have no doubt been sunk by the Covid-19 torpedo.

Blaming China is, however, a dangerous game. Pushed to its logical limit, that narrative sets Washington and London on a collision course of conflict with Beijing. If Western ideologues and media become convinced that China is to blame for all the woes in the US and Britain as a result of Covid-19, then litigation is but the polite front for an underlying casus belli.

Remember too that Washington under Trump has already embarked on a recklessly abrasive policy toward China over trade. The Pentagon regularly denounces Beijing as a geopolitical adversary and has openly called for increasing military encirclement of China.

The Covid-19 recriminations are merely a new twist to Washington’s antagonism toward China.

Another major question is what kind of precedent the blame-China narrative is setting?

Assuming that Covid-19 is a naturally occurring disease – and not a biowarfare accident – is it legally or morally justifiable to sue China for a pandemic?

In which case, the next time a natural disaster emanates from another country, will it be also sued for repercussions on the other side of the globe? Would Western states, for example, sue African nations over a repeat of the Ebola outbreak?

The logic here seems lamentably selfish and callous, and an upside down way of seeing the world. Diseases will inevitably happen as part of the human condition, especially when that condition is deprived and impoverished. Is it not more effective and morally right for all nations to work together to improve public health care nationally and globally through proper financial and scientific support?

Or are nations to take the Trumpian view of blaming others for misfortune? What is all the more contemptible is that this view is more often a cover-up for one’s own inherent failings, failings which border on criminality as the underfunding of public health services arguably amounts to.

And why stop at litigation over diseases?

The calamity of the 2008 global financial crisis cost millions of workers their livelihoods and savings, according to the ILO. Whole societies were plunged into austerity to pay for bailouts to the banks. That austerity has left public health services across Europe and the US threadbare which is all too apparent in the growing death toll from Covid-19.

Most analysts agree that the 2008 global financial crisis stemmed from the toxic subprime mortgage bubble inflated by Wall Street.

Therefore, before the Americans and their British sidekicks go down the route of hounding China over Covid-19, they would be better to keep their mouths shut. Their own logic is making them liable for a hell of a lot more.

FILE PHOTO © AFP / Mandel Ngan

Author: 

Finian Cunningham

Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist. For over 25 years, he worked as a sub-editor and writer for The Mirror, Irish Times, Irish Independent and Britain's Independent, among others.

===

Coronavirus: China is Sued in the US, Sues Back Claiming the Virus is “American”

What we predicted, happened: American lawyers are suing China. And in China, lawyers sue the U.S. claiming America is responsible for the virus.

By  - 28. march 2020


The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida: China has been sued there for having spread the virus internationally

In a recent article in Bitter Winter, I discussed comments by American legal scholar James Kraska on possible lawsuits against China, asking it to pay the enormous damages caused by the spread of COVID-19, which was caused or at least made worse by Chinese negligence and cover-ups. I agreed with Professor Kraska that China is legally responsible, but disagreed with him when he identified the International Court of Justice as the proper or likely venue to hear claims for damages. I expressed better hopes in the U.S. civil courts and the creativity of American lawyers.

It has already happened. The Chinese national government and the Hubei provincial authorities have been sued before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for damages by American citizens who did not test positive for COVID-19 but claim to have suffered economic losses because of it. The Florida lawsuit named as defendants the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the National Health Commission of the PRC, the Ministry of Emergency Management of PRC, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of PRC, the Government of the Hubei Province and the Government of the City of Wuhan.

Chinese scholars Zheng Sophia Tang (currently at Newcastle University) and Zhengxin Huo came to the defense. They argued that American courts should not assert jurisdiction against a foreign sovereign state such as China—although American law allows them to do so in some circumstances. In fact, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976 states that foreign states can be sued “for personal injury or death, or damage to or loss of property, occurring in the United States and caused by the tortious act or omission of that foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his office or employment.”

Under U.S. law, China can be liable for damages, but the burden of proof is severe for the plaintiffs. It seems another lawsuit against China had also been started. My impression is that these are just preliminary moves. We have not seen yet top, millionaire law firms entering the fray. And, for what is worth, I suggested that suing the CCP as a party may be easier than suing China as a sovereign state.

One curious Chinese reaction has been to start lawsuits against the American government, based on the theory officially promoted by the Chinese government that the virus originated in the United States and came to China through U.S. soldiers who participated in the Wuhan Military Games in October 2019. In theory, local courts in China should seek the guidance of the People’s Supreme Court, which should stop the cases since (unlike American law), Chinese laws maintains that foreign sovereign states enjoy absolute immunity from legal prosecution.

But it is obvious that these cases are merely retaliation and political propaganda. Nobody can seriously believe that the U.S. exported the virus to China, and the CCP propaganda machine seems to have already switched to the equally absurd theory that the virus originated in Italy.

The American civil suits are, on the other hand, serious. I personally keep the most aggressive among the American lawyers in my daily prayers, hoping they will be inspired to unleash their heaviest legal artillery against the CCP.

Author:

Massimo Introvigne

 (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

===

Covid-19 a biological weapon, alleges US lawyer who sued China

By Abhinandan Mishra - 28. March 2020,

Larry Klayman says the virus was developed in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

American lawyer Larry Klayman, who has filed a $20 trillion lawsuit against the Chinese government, believes that the US intelligence agencies have evidence to prove beyond doubt that Covid-19 is a biological weapon.

Klayman, who filed the class action suit (a suit where a group of people come together to sue the defendant) against China on 17 March, stated in his suit that the virus was developed in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“The only bioweapons laboratory in China is in Wuhan. Two plus two equals four. We will get discovery on US intelligence agencies. They (US intelligence agencies) know,” Klayman told The Sunday Guardian. In the American legal system, parties to the dispute can obtain evidence from a third party by using means such as interrogatories, requests for production of documents and government records through “discovery”, which is a pre-trial procedure.

Klayman and his advocacy group Freedom Watch, along with a Texas company, have filed the lawsuit against the Chinese government, the Chinese army, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli, who is the Director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and Chinese army’s Major General Chen Wei, who leads the Institute of Bioengineering, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Beijing. As per Klayman’s submission in front of the district court for the Northern District of Texas, Major General Chen Wei is a Chinese military’s top epidemiologist and virologist, who is not only leading China’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also led the creation of Covid-19 (coronavirus) as a bioweapon for China’s military.

The Sunday Guardian reached out to Shi Zhengli for a response from her on this matter, but nothing was received until the time this report went to the press.

A substantial part of the allegations raised by Klayman in the 24-page suit is based on media reports, almost all of which have been sourced from reports carried by US media.

Responding to The Sunday Guardian’s query on whether the $20 trillion lawsuit, which is more than even China’s GDP, can be enforced even if he wins the class action suit, Klayman said that he was confident of winning. “The damage claims include punitive damages. China deserves to be severely punished for this pandemic. Once we get a jury verdict, which I am confident will happen, Chinese assets can be attached and liquidated as there are billions in US banks and investments,” he said.

Klayman, who also ran for the US Senate as a Republican candidate in Florida’s primary in 2004, has the distinction of obtaining a court ruling against former US President Bill Clinton, the first lawyer ever to have got one against an American President. A character that fight against corruption, based on Klayman, was created in the NBC hit drama series “The West Wing”. During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, Klayman was a prosecutor with the Justice Department.

Klayman has accused China of “recklessly or otherwise allowing the release of Covid 19 from the Wuhan Institute of Virology into the city of Wuhan, China, in Hubei Province and failing to prevent the Institute’s personnel from becoming infected with the bioweapon and carrying it into the surrounding community and proliferation into the United States”.

To substantiate his allegations, Kalyman has mentioned about an internal speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee on 3 February. In this speech, as per Klayman’s claim, Xinping had spoken about how he had on 7 January itself issued orders to “prevent and control” the coronavirus. Xi explained these efforts by saying that laboratory safety was a “national security” issue. Klayman further has alleged in the suit that this statement of Jinping is evidence of the fact that Covid-19 was developed in the laboratory.

===

Chinese Lawyers Sue America on Conspiracy Theory Virus Came from U.S.

People wear masks on a street in Hong Kong, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac. Cutting off access to entire cities with millions of residents to stop a new virus outbreak is a step few …
AP Photo/Kin Cheung
By JOHN HAYWARD - 

Lawyers working for the Chinese government filed lawsuits in Chinese courts this week charging the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Defense Department, and White House for allegedly “covering up” the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The suits are part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) outrageous propaganda campaign to obscure its own responsibility for the pandemic by pretending it might have secretly originated on U.S. soil, possibly as an American-made bio-weapon.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on the CCP’s theatrical legal actions on Thursday:

Wuhan lawyer Liang Xuguang filed one lawsuit with the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court against the U.S. Government, CDC, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Armed Forces Sports Council claiming damages of 200,000 yuan (around U.S.$28,000).

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were responsible for lost wages and emotional harm because they “covered up” the alleged emergence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 on U.S. soil.

“From Sept. 2019 to Mar. 2020, the U.S. Government and the CDC knowingly disclosed the wrong public health information in the name of “influenza” when some of the influenza patients were actually infected with some undetermined type of virus (which was later proved to be COVID-19),” the lawsuit, translated by the China Justice Observer (CJO) website, said.

The “cover-up” resulted in the global COVID-19 pandemic, in which Wuhan was one of the worst-hit regions, the lawsuit claimed.

Lawyers at the China Justice Observer said the case would likely be effectively referred to the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing for a ruling, because sovereign states are generally immune from prosecution.

Beijing lawyer Chen Yueqin filed a similar lawsuit at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday, calling for compensation for reputational damage done by President Donald Trump’s use of the phrase “the Chinese virus” to describe the coronavirus.

“There are too many clowns in the legal profession,” human rights lawyer Sui Muqing sighed to RFA.

“The main aim of the Chinese government in picking these fights is to make the Chinese people believe in them,” he noted. 

As RFA observed, sovereign immunity will render these lawsuits futile, and probably scuttle lawsuits filed against Beijing by human rights activists to hold it responsible for the pandemic, although supporters of those legal actions argue that they might help motivate the international human rights support system to push for sanctions against China.

The RFA report includes some interesting hints that the CCP might have decided its propaganda campaign has gone a bit too far, since it has pushed the entire Western world to the brink of absolute fury against China:

News of the lawsuits circulated on social media as Chinese premier Li Keqiang warned people to “seek truth from facts” when discussing the pandemic.

Warning of the peril of “chasing patient zero” while ignoring the potential danger of false negative testing, Li called for a “more sustainable mental attitude” when dealing with the coronavirus. His comments were carried on the front page of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily.

The authorities have also been blocking social media reports of a “patient zero” alleged to be a U.S. soldier, suggesting Beijing may be moving to distance itself from the conspiracy theories.

Social media reports continued to circulate of an alleged patient zero in northern Italy, however.

The post cited an Italian doctor, Giuseppe Remuzzi, who later said his comments had been taken out of context.

Those are not just “social media reports” in the sense of randos kicking them around on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Major Chinese state media organs, including the Communist Party newspaper Global Times and the CCTV broadcast network, have been pushing Remuzzi’s comments as some sort of damning admission that the virus actually originated outside of China.

What Remuzzi actually said was that reports of “very strange pneumonias” among elderly people in Italy in November and December could mean “the virus was circulating at least in Lombardy before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.”

CCP media outlets mistranslated Remuzzi as saying the virus “might already have been spreading in Italy before the epidemic erupted in China.” Some social media users twisted Remuzzi’s statements even further, and strangely enough, the million-man censorship army that relentlessly patrols the Chinese internet to punish “rumors” decided to let these rumors circulate without hindrance.

Remuzzi clarified on Thursday that based on genetic analysis, there is “no doubt that the virus arrived in Italy from China.” Specifically, he said the data suggests the coronavirus was introduced to Italy by a German traveler who caught it from a Chinese individual.

“One has to consider the possibility that, rather understandably, the emergence of this unfortunate event in China probably occurred long before health authorities realized it, considering the number of asymptomatic carriers,” Remuzzi said, diplomatically avoiding the fact that China aggressively punished and terrorized doctors who discovered the Wuhan outbreak and tried to warn the world about it.

The CCP’s effort to obscure the origins of the Wuhan virus and conceal its culpability for the spread of the pandemic began in February with pseudo-scholarly musings that “Patient Zero” has never been isolated, the point at which the virus is believed to have jumped from animals to humans has not been firmly established, and it might have originated somewhere outside the city of Wuhan.

By the end of February, this campaign escalated to unfounded theories that the virus came from outside Chinanot just outside Wuhan. In March, it reached fever pitch as CCP officials pushed deranged conspiracy theories that the virus was created in a U.S. laboratory and spread, either accidentally or deliberately, to Wuhan by U.S. Army personnel who participated in an international military event there.

This propaganda was reinforced by Chinese state media deliberately mistranslating comments by U.S. Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield.

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Coronavirus: CCP Beware, the Lawyers Are Coming

Under international law, China and/or the Chinese Communist Party can and should be sued for the enormous damages they caused to the world.

By  - 25. March 

A hearing at the International Court of Justice

A hearing at the International Court of Justice (credits).

When all this will be over, and perhaps even before, the CCP may find itself attacked by an enemy its mighty military power will not be able to stop, aggressive Western lawyers. It is slowly becoming obvious that there is ground in international law to sue the Chinese government and/or the CCP for the damages their irresponsible conduct caused to the whole world. A study by American legal scholar James Kraska discussed this point. I do not agree with all his statements, but am summarizing and developing here some of his ideas, adding others of my own.

What would be the legal basis for the lawsuits? It is, indeed, a basis the world created with China in mind. In 2002, SARS spread from China’s Guangdong province. By 2003, it had spread to 28 countries, with a total death toll of 774. The figure may now look small, compared to the victims of COVID-19, but the world realized that many casualties could have been avoided, had China not tried to shroud in secrecy the epidemic for several weeks after it occurred. SARS led to the new International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO),  adopted in 2005 and legally binding on all WHO member states, including China. The Regulations refer inter alia to SARS as well as to similar diseases “caused by a new subtype” (such is the virus responsible for COVID-19), and establish an obligation by member states to share relevant information within the WHO “within 24 hours.”

No matter how much China uses its political leverage to control statements by WHO leaders, it is crystal clear that China has violated its obligation to report under the 2005 Regulations. The story of Doctor Li Wenliang (1986-2020), to whose family the CCP apologized when he had already died from the disease, shows clearly that China did not want information on the virus to go public internationally, and those who dared to speak about it were threatened or put in jail. The CCP withheld crucial information for weeks, both at home and internationally, and there is a general consensus that, had China released them on time, thousands of lives would have been saved.

A crucial problem in international law is sanctions. Proclaiming that UN member states are responsible for their actions is easy. Sanctioning them is difficult. To help with the notoriously intractable problem of enforcing international law, the United Nations established in 1947 the International Law Commission (ILC). In 2001, this Commission published the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts. Many have noted the limits of the ILC: its documents are authoritative but not legally binding on member states. However, the case law of the International Court of Justice tells a partially different story. The Court has used ILC documents, including the Draft Articles, as guidelines to interpret international law. Art. 34 of the Draft Articles states that a state that intentionally breached an international obligation is liable to “full reparation for the injury caused by the internationally wrongful act,” in “the form of restitution, compensation and satisfaction.” Of interest is also Art. 39, according to which, “In the determination of reparation, account shall be taken of the contribution to the injury by willful or negligent action or omission of the injured State or any person or entity in relation to whom reparation is sought.” This means that, in addition to China as a state, entities (such as the CCP) or persons (such as President Xi Jinping and others) who, to say the least, “contributed” to the Chinese breach of its obligation to share immediately information with the rest of the world through the WHO, are also liable.

The damages are obviously enormous. China may find several ways to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, whose vice-president, by the way, is a Chinese, Ms. Xue Hanqin. However, states have found alternative way to punish the wrongdoers. Since 2016, the Global Magnitsky Act authorizes the United States to take action against human rights offenders. Courts throughout the world have also accepted civil lawsuits seeking damages from foreign officials. The Western lawyers’ fantasy is almost without limits. There should be many ways to hold China, the CCP, Mr. Xi Jinping and all those who cooperated in the cover-up liable for the enormous amount of deaths, tragedy, and economic damages they caused. CCP beware: the lawyers are coming, and this may be good news for the world.

Author:

Massimo Introvigne

 (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

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Purpose to kill US citizens: American lawyer sues China for USD 20 billion for coronavirus outbreak

It went on to allege that the purpose of maintaining the virus within the laboratory was to use it to 'kill US citizens and other persons and entities in nations perceived to be an enemy of China.'

Image result for Purpose to kill US citizens: American lawyer sues China for USD 20 billion for coronavirus outbreak

American lawyer Larry Klayman (Photo | Twitter)

By ANI - 24. March 2020

WASHINGTON: American lawyer Larry Klayman has filed a USD 20 trillion lawsuit against China for the creation and the release of the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 334,000 people globally.

Klayman, his advocacy group Freedom Watch and Buzz Photos, a Texas company, filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, alleging that the novel coronavirus was "designed by China to be a biological weapon of war", and that whether or not the country intended to release it, China violated "US law, international laws, treaties, and norms."

"Because China has agreed by treaty to outlaw such weapons, these actions cannot be official governmental actions of the People's Republic of China and are not subject to any possible claim of legal immunity from suit," the lawsuit said, as cited by Law and Crime.

It went on to allege that the purpose of maintaining the virus within the laboratory was to use it to "kill US citizens and other persons and entities in nations perceived to be an enemy of China."

The virus, which first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread 189 countries or territories, infected more than 334,000 people and killed over 14,500, as per the latest data available on the World Health Organisation website.

"COVID-19 is an extremely dangerous disease because it has an extremely aggressive nature, was designed to mutate from person to person, spreads very quickly and easily, no vaccine exists yet on account of it being a new disease, the means of transmission are not fully known with certainty, and treatments are only just being worked out, and the disease appears to be about ten times as deadly as the flu," the lawsuit read.

It said that the lawsuit was designed by China such as to be an effective and catastrophic biological warfare weapon to kill mass populations.

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Bloomberg columnist tries to preempt legal action against China - unsuccessfully:

No, China Can't Be Sued Over Coronavirus

Nation-states are immune from such lawsuits.

By  - 24. 

There’s no legal solution, but there might be a political one.

There’s no legal solution, but there might be a political one  - says the Bloomberg OPED, but that is wrong. Photographer: Getty Images

I wish I could join the groundswell of opinion demanding that China be held liable for allowing the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 to get out of control. The drumbeat includes, for example, a class action lawsuit filed in Florida last week and the argument that we should treat the outbreak as we would an act of terrorism, because under U.S. law, a country that sponsors terror can’t claim sovereign immunity.

But I cannot. If you want to argue that the government of China has behaved irresponsibly, that the country’s officials deserve the condemnation of the world for letting the novel coronavirus escape when early action could have kept it under reasonable control, you’ll get no argument from me. The Chinese authorities have chosen denial, censorship and bluster rather than the transparency that might have saved lives. The regime’s transmission of patently false information has made matters worse.

Legal liability, however, is another matter. The government of China is protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and the regime’s undoubted misconduct does not constitute sufficient grounds for a waiver.

Sovereign immunity is not a favor courts do for foreign regimes. It’s an act of reciprocity, a peace treaty resting on a shared understanding that we will not allow our people to sue you if you will not allow your people to sue us. So broad is the traditional doctrine that a British court held in 1894 that even if a foreign ruler moves into one’s country, takes on an assumed name and conceals his true position, and enters into a contract, a lawsuit against him for breach is still barred.

Until 1952, the U.S. generally took the position that the immunity of foreign sovereigns was absolute. 1  That year, the State Department took the position that it would more closely scrutinize claims of immunity where the case involved a commercial dispute. That in turn led to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, known as FSIA, passed in 1976, a statute intended (in the words of one federal court) “to protect foreign sovereigns from the burdens of litigation, including the cost and aggravation of discovery.”

So broad are the statute’s protections that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a foreign country need not even file an answer to a complaint — what lawyers call entering an appearance — in order for immunity to apply. 2  For example, when the family of a boy allegedly killed by a malfunctioning hunting rifle sued the manufacturer, a company owned by the Chinese government, the defendant did not bother offering a response in court. Instead, the company just sent the lawsuit documents back to the plaintiff, and the company was held to be immune

Of course, if control of a company turns out to rest in private hands, sovereign immunity offers no defense. U.S. courts have been willing to go as far as tracing the actual ownership of a foreign corporation, to be sure that a government in fact controls the majority of shares. This, too, has been applied to Chinese companies (Chinese businesses get sued a lot). 3  Even before the current outbreak, an increasing number of Chinese companies have been asserting sovereign immunity in U.S. courts. But none of this would have any application to a suit against the Chinese government itself.

What about other exceptions in the statute? The Florida class action suit asserts that the exception for commercial activities applies, but it’s not easy to see how. The suit also purports to fall within the exception for death or harm “caused by the tortious act or omission of that foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his office or employment.” But that section specifically bars any claim “based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function regardless of whether the discretion be abused.” It’s hard to find a way around this restriction.

Yes, China’s behavior has been reckless, but that possibility is baked into the very idea of sovereign immunity. Tort law generally rests on the proposition that people will take reasonable precautions if they know they’ll be liable for the harm they cause. Theorists refer to the process as forcing people to “internalize” the costs of their behavior; that internalization avoids the problem of moral hazard.

Under sovereign immunity, however, the costs of misbehavior by a government tend to lie where they fall. That concern led to the adoption a few years ago of the exception for sponsors of international terror. There, at least, a part of the costs of reckless behavior will be internalized. But beyond a handful of small islands of civil liability created by legislation, the punishment for another country’s recklessness is likely to be political.

The government of China has essentially bet that it will suffer no punishment, that politics will be its protection. But one wonders whether this will turn out to be true. The world has suffered trillions of dollars in losses from the regime’s recklessness. The economic fallout might well last a long time. Perhaps world leaders will act after all.

And even if they don’t, a judge might. Until FSIA went into effect in the late 1970s, the State Department adjudicated sovereign immunity claims on a case-by-case basis. Since then, courts have done so. Recent analysis has suggested that judicial decisions on whether to grant sovereign immunity are often influenced by the politics of the moment than the State Department was.

If this analysis is correct, then it’s easy to imagine that no matter what world political leaders may do, a handful of U.S. judges might insist that some special aspect of the pandemic means that the Chinese regime is liable under FSIA after all. I’m skeptical that the judges would be right, but I suspect that a bipartisan coalition of elected officials would cheer them on

  1. This remains the formal position of the Chinese government.

  2. See specifically the much-quoted footnote 20.

  3. At the same time, U.S. courts have been scrupulous about barring plaintiffs from entangling Chinese corporate entities in lawsuits against the government itself. For example, a federal appellate court held in 2011 that a statute allowing lawsuits against foreign officials who engage in torture could not be used to sue a bank allegedly controlled by the Chinese government unless the plaintiff could show that bank officials who arranged his arrest in effect intended his mistreatment by police.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Stephen L. Carter at  - Follow @StepCarter on Twitter

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Sarah Green Carmichael at 

 

 

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