Business Insider Edition

A US state is suing China, taking Trump's lead in blaming the country for Covid-19

Isaac Scher , Business Insider US
 Apr 22, 2020, 08:35 AM
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 20:  Protesters hold
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
  • The state of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government and health institutions on Tuesday, blaming them for the global coronavirus crisis.
  • "They must be held accountable for their actions," Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office said in a statement.
  • Lawsuits against foreign governments rarely produce any results because of sovereign immunity.
  • Schmitt may have taken his cue from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly deflected responsibility for the coronavirus and instead blames China.
  • The Pentagon's National Center for Medical Intelligence warned the White House about the coronavirus last year, as did American researchers working at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

On Tuesday, Missouri joined President Donald Trump in shifting blame for the coronavirus pandemic, filing a lawsuit against the Chinese government and other Chinese officials and institutions.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court for East Missouri, holds the Communist Party of China and a series of state and non-state health agencies "responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians."

"The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of Covid-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease," the office for Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, said in a statement. "They must be held accountable for their actions."

Lawsuits against countries generally don't produce results because of a legal doctrine called "sovereign immunity." US law allows for few exceptions for such lawsuits to bear fruit, Ashley Deeks, an international law expert at the University of Virginia School of Law, told ABC News.

Missouri reported 5,963 cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 215 people deaths.

The federal government slashed funding to the World Health Organisation last week. Trump has repeatedly said the United Nations-affiliated agency is "China-centric." He has blamed China for the pandemic, but has held an inconsistent position on the issue, praising Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his response.

The Trump administration was warned about the coronavirus last year in a report from the National Center for Medical Intelligence, which is part of the Pentagon. US researchers working at the WHO also sounded the alarm about the coronavirus in 2019.

David Nabarro, a special envoy to the WHO, denied Trump's claims that the WHO has a pro-China bias.

He said the Chinese government invited a team of fact-finders to the country in mid-February. "There were no restrictions on what that team investigated," Nabarro said in an interview with NBC News' "Meet the Press" this month. "It included American experts as well as experts from others in the world," he said.

"I'd love to see much greater cooperation between leaders," he continued. "I'd like to see them uniting and showing the world that they believe that this global threat has to be dealt with through united action between all countries and their people."

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