Trump's Senate ally seeks China sanctions over coronavirus probe
WASHINGTON: A prominent US Republican senator proposed legislation on Tuesday that would authorise the US President to impose far-reaching sanctions on China if it fails to give a full account of events leading to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of President Donald Trump, said he was convinced that had it not been for "deception" by China's ruling Communist Party, the virus would not be in the US, where it has killed more than 80,000 Americans.
Mr Graham said China had refused to allow investigators to study how the outbreak started and added in a statement: "I'm convinced China will never cooperate with a serious investigation unless they are made to do so."
Mr Trump's critics, including some former officials, academics and columnists, have said that while China has much to answer for, the US administration appears to be seeking to deflect attention from what they see as a slow US response to the crisis.
Mr Graham said his "Covid-19 Accountability Act" would require the President to make a certification to Congress within 60 days that China had "provided a full and complete accounting to any Covid-19 investigation led by the United States, its allies or UN affiliate such as the World Health Organisation".
It would also require certification that China had closed all "wet markets" that can expose humans to health risks and released all Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates arrested in post-pandemic crackdowns.
China is resolutely opposed to this "immoral" Bill and has been open and transparent since the beginning of the epidemic, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, at a briefing in Beijing yesterday.
The Bill would authorise the President to impose a range of sanctions, including asset freezes, travel bans and visa revocations, as well as restrictions on loans to Chinese businesses by US institutions and banning Chinese companies from listing on US exchanges.
The legislation was co-sponsored by eight other Republican senators.
Mr Trump and his Republican backers have repeatedly accused Beijing of failing to alert the world to the severity and scope of the outbreak, which has sparked a worldwide economic contraction and threatened the President's November re-election chances.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, whose party controls the House, said things "definitely went wrong in China" but there was a need to look at the full story and the Trump administration should not escape scrutiny.
"Let's get the story out on the table first and see what everybody's part of this problem was, to fix it going forward, and then we can decide about accountability," he said. - REUTERS