She says it is a mistake to allow American citizens to sue Beijing for virus damage
Shoppers wear masks on Saturday at a farmers market in Santa Monica, California. ROBYN BECK / AFP
A United States senator described China as a "respectable nation" and that "it is a big mistake" to allow American citizens to sue China for coronavirus damage when she defended the nation in a firm speech against a bill that defended one approved such step.
"Where I live, we see China as a potential trading partner, as a country that has raised tens of millions of people out of poverty in a short space of time, and as a country that has grown into a respectable nation among other nations," said Senator Dianne Feinstein ( Democrat, California) told her colleagues during a Senate Justice Committee meeting on Thursday.
"I firmly believe that. I have been to China several times. I have investigated the problems. The United States has the most to lose if it allows civil lawsuits against China for COVID-19 damage," she added, referring to statements from recent committee hearings.
Feinstein's comment came when the judiciary met on Thursday to discuss the Coronavirus Victim's Civil Justice Law, a law that was submitted by Senator Martha McSally (Republican, Arizona) that would allow US citizens to enter the Chinese government to sue the pandemic before a federal court for damages.
The bill, supported by some Republican politicians, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday with 13 to 9 votes. It is on its way to the Senate for consideration.
Graham, also a co-sponsor of the bill, claimed that "the Chinese party deceived the world and manipulated information about the corona virus."
He proposed to amend the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, which imposes a restriction on whether a foreign sovereign nation can be sued in US courts to allow exemptions for lawsuits against China.
Feinstein warned that the lifting of China's sovereign immunity could lead to retaliation against the United States from other countries.
"We started a number of unknown events that can be very, very dangerous. I think that's a big mistake," she said.
Chimene Keitner, a professor of international law at the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California at San Francisco, who witnessed the hearing, argued that private litigation would not bring China to the negotiating table, nor would the victims provide answers or compensation to the US.
"If these allegations were actually processed, it would provide Chinese lawyers with a captive audience to catalog the shortcomings in US local, state, and federal responses to a threat, which the intelligence community has reportedly highlighted in the President's Daily Letter was in mid-January, "she argued.
It is now more important to focus on the immediate needs of the American people, said Keitner.
As a sovereign state, China is immune to the jurisdiction of a foreign court. In most international legal systems, China would have to agree to file a lawsuit against China before it can be sued. Therefore, experts say that such a lawsuit is highly unlikely to prevail.
"We do not have an international judicial system in which a state is forced to appear in court if it does not agree," said Natalie Klein, law professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
J. Maria Glover, a law professor at Georgetown University, told the Los Angeles Times that the lawsuits seem symbolic and political. "They are looking for someone to blame and there are many blames, but these suits have almost no chance of success in court."
Representative Judy Chu, a California democrat, said Friday that Republicans tried to distract attention from the current government's failed response to the coronavirus pandemic by blaming China.
A number of experts in the scientific community have recognized that China's stringent outbreak containment measures and rapid communication with international organizations have helped gain valuable response times for other countries' struggles against the virus.
A study of nature published in May by scientists in China, the United States and the United Kingdom concluded that non-pharmaceutical intervention methods to curb the outbreak significantly reduced the transmission of the disease in China and weakened the effects of the pathogen in other countries Parts of the world.
In an interview with CNN, Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said that China immediately notified WHO on December 31, 2009, when it received "the first signal" that this was a potentially new SARS virus.
"We should be very grateful to the authorities in China and the World Health Organization for doing everything they can to make the world aware of the severity of this pandemic," said Horton.
Meanwhile, California governor Gavin Newsom announced on July 22 that he had extended a contract with Chinese manufacturer BYD to purchase additional medical masks since the Golden State, now the US epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak with 500,130 positive cases from August 1st, continues to struggle against a growing lack of personal protective equipment in his hospitals.
The $ 316 million contract enables the state to purchase 300 million surgical masks at less than half of BYD's original unit price.