- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2020

China is lashing out at American lawmakers who are seeking to have the country face accountability in U.S. courts for the coronavirus, according to a government-controlled newspaper that reported that Beijing is ready to “hit back” with its own sanctions.

The communist government is hefting the power of the country’s massive economy, suggesting it could halt investments in states represented by those who attempt to blame China for the virus that originated in Wuhan. At least four members of Congress “will be put on China’s sanctions list,” the Global Times reported, citing “sources close to the matter.”

A number of lawmakers were named in the story, but those that drew particular attention from the Chinese press were Sens. Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley and Reps. Chris Smith, all Republicans.

“American Congresspeople who hold an anti-China stance like Smith have been long-term hawks on China-relevant topics such as Taiwan and Xinjiang. And Republicans like Hawley are also backed by some U.S. defense companies and other companies that compete with Chinese firms,” Diao Daming, a U.S. studies expert at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the newspaper last week.

Mr. Smith, who last year authored the Hong Kong Human Rights Act, said he wouldn’t bow to pressure.

“Sanctions will not silence me or anyone who demands genuine accountability for this horrific pandemic,” he said in a statement over the weekend, pointing to the death toll from COVID-19 in New Jersey, which he represents. “Beijing cannot continue to hide, lie and now threaten to stop us from demanding the truth.”

Mr. Hawley took to Twitter Friday to call the possibility of sanctions a “badge of honor.”

Mr. Hawley is from Missouri, where Attorney General Eric Schmitt has already filed a lawsuit against the Chinese Communist Party, arguing it directed the policies that have failed the world, allowing COVID-19 to spread and devastate the global economy.

In Missouri along, Mr. Schmitt said in the lawsuit, “billions of dollars” have been lost to the coronavirus.

The Global Times said China will take steps to punish Missouri’s economy.

The newspaper quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian as saying the Republican Party in the U.S. has failed in its own response to the virus and is “smearing China.” He said the U.S. media has exposed the tactic.

Yuan Zheng, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, suggested the sanctions will try to hit the lawmakers’ wallets. He told the newspaper China must ferret out any business ties those lawmakers have and “should impose countermeasures that could make them feel the pain.”

The article noted that Missouri got $1.1 billion in Chinese investment in 2017, responsible for 4,500 jobs.

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