The government of China has threatened to inflict pain, including interfering in the upcoming November election, on Congressman Chris Smith and several other Republican lawmakers and officials who are working to hold China responsible for the tragic results of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“China is extremely dissatisfied with the abuse of litigation by the US against China over the COVID-19 epidemic, and is considering punitive countermeasures against US individuals, entities and state officials. China won’t just strike back symbolically but will impose countermeasures that will make them feel the pain, analysts said,” The Global Times, a propaganda outlet of the Chinese government, wrote this week.
The article singled out Smith who has been calling China to account for human rights violations for over 30 years and who has recently introduced legislation that would strip China of its sovereign immunity against lawsuits filed by American citizens, companies and governments seeking damages for coronavirus related losses.
“Smith has also been a frequent instigator on China-related topics, particularly on so-called human rights issues. In March 2019, Smith introduced legislation to tackle China’s political influence in the US by saying ‘Beijing’s influence operations are sophisticated and threatening.’”
Smith said: “Sanctions will not silence me or anyone who demands genuine accountability for this horrific pandemic. In my state of New Jersey alone, more than ten thousand people have died from COVID-19. Beijing cannot continue to hide, lie and now threaten to stop us from demanding the truth.”
Smith is the prime author of H.R. 6524 – Compensation for the Victims of State Misrepresentations to the World Health Organization Act of 2020 a bill he introduced on April 17th joined by Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) to waive the Foreign Immunities Act to legally empower U.S. citizens to sue the government of China for monetary damages, “for personal injury or death, or damage to or loss of property, occurring in the United States as a result of a willful or grossly negligent misrepresentation of information to the World Health Organization.”
Additionally, on Friday (May 15th) Smith, joined by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), introduced H.R. 6915 to establish a truth commission tasked to with compiling the factual record on the origins of and response to COVID-19 by both China and the World Health Organization (WHO) and make recommendations for future improvement.
The Smith-Cuellar truth commission legislation states that “With the onset of the COVID-19 the Government of the People’s Republic of China provided factually-inaccurate information to the WHO and Director-General Ghebreyesus, resulting in the spread of disinformation globally about the pandemic.”
In addition to the lawsuit and truth commission legislation, Smith is the prime author of numerous bills, amendments and laws to combat Chinese government abuse including most recently:
- The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
- Countering the Chinese Government and Communist Party’s Political Influence Operations Act
- Combating Illicit Fentanyl Act of 2019
- Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act
The 20-term Republican said he has traveled to China several times and after one human rights visit to Beijing was blocked for seven years from getting a visa.
Smith was the prime sponsor in the House of Representatives of H.R.624 – Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which was signed into law on December 23, 2016 as Sections 1261-1265, Subtitle F, Public Law 114-328, of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act. Global Magnitsky directs the President to impose U.S. entry and property sanctions against any foreign person (or entity) who is responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country, especially those persons seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials, or to obtain, exercise, or promote human rights and freedoms.
“Global Magnitsky sanctions should be imposed on those Chinese government officials who lied and suppressed the truth about COVID-19 and committed human rights abuses against individuals who sought to alert the world about the virus,” Smith said.
Smith chaired a landmark hearing in 2006 with top executives from Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo demanding that these and other top U.S. corporations end what he called their “complicity with China’s secret police repression and Beijing’s ubiquitous censorship of the internet.”
Soon after the Tiananmen Square massacre, in March of 1991, Smith and then-Congressman Frank Wolf led a human rights mission to China and visited Beijing Prison No. 1 where over 40 democracy protestors were making shoes and socks for export to the U.S. The two congressmen got U.S. Customs to place an import ban on all products from the prison.
On another trip to China in January of 1994, Smith visited with Bishop Su Zhimin, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Baoding in Hebei Province who spent decades in prison for his faith. After celebrating Mass with Smith and his delegation, Bishop Su was arrested and held for nine days.
Smith said that “on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, President Xi is in a race to the bottom with North Korea. Under his policy of sinicization all religious faiths are required to comport with communist ideology.” In December of 2018, Smith wrote an op-ed published by the Washington Post: The world must stand against China’s war on religion.
“I sponsored the first (of dozens) committee and floor amendments beginning in 1983 to defund the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for its complicity in China’s coercive one child per couple policy,” he said.
Smith said that for over 30 years, he has “pushed back on the fantasy notion that trade with China—in reality, a gutting of American manufacturing and a wholesale transfer of intellectual property–would somehow ameliorate China’s behavior.”
Along with a handful of other congressional voices “we fought the Clinton Administration when it abandoned the linking of trade benefits (Most Favored Nation, or MFN) with significant progress on human rights and he put together and chaired the only congressional hearings opposing China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).”
When Bill Clinton abandoned human rights linkage with China MFN on a Friday afternoon—on May 26, 1994—Smith put together a press conference to protest what he called Clinton’s “abandonment”: China Most Favored Nation Status Reaction.
“Since that infamous day in May, we—and the human rights defenders inside China—lost much of our leverage to promote human rights in China,” he added.