Chinese lawmakers propose foreign states immunities law to counter Covid-19 lawsuit in the US
Chinese lawmakers have proposed formulating a foreign states immunities law, following litigations filed against the Asian powerhouse in the US and other countries seeking compensation over the coronavirus outbreak.Updated: May 26, 2020 22:59 IST
Chinese lawmakers have proposed formulating a foreign states immunities law, following litigations filed against the Asian powerhouse in the US and other countries seeking compensation over the coronavirus outbreak.
The move will protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens as well as foreign investors, said Ma Yide, a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC) and a law researcher at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences.
It will also counteract malicious litigations raised in countries like the US towards China over the COVID-19 response, Ma told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of the annual parliament session.
A lawsuit was filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt against the Chinese government, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), and other Chinese officials and institutions in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
It alleges that during the critical weeks of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, the Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistle-blowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, allowed millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE), causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable.
Observers say the Missouri lawsuit could pose a problem to China in view of the US courts’ claim of universal jurisdiction.
Asked for his reaction to the lawsuits whether Beijing is concerned that China’s assets overseas could be seized, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday said, “Some people are clamouring for so-called accountability and compensation from a victim of COVID-19. They are fabricating so-called evidence for frivolous lawsuits. These people are tramping on international rule of law and betraying human conscience” Ma said the lack of such a law has emerged as a prominent issue in the current epidemic as some countries, led by the United States, tried to shift the blame for their own governments’ incompetence on COVID-19 response.
Some groups and individuals in some countries even cited the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of the United States to bring litigations to the Chinese government and relevant departments, he added.
“This has trampled on the internationally recognised principle of sovereign immunity, and is also a show of hegemony and power politics,” Ma said, stressing the necessity and urgency for China to formulate a foreign states immunities law. China follows the principle of absolute immunity of foreign states and their property, thus Chinese litigants are unable to sue foreign governments from domestic courts, while Chinese governments have often been sued in foreign courts, he added.
Ma suggested adopting a limited immunities principle, which is more commonly found in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union countries.
From a long-term perspective, adopting a limited immunities principle will show a responsible manner of the Chinese government to foreign investors, ensure stable expectations for the protection of their investments, and facilitate China’s new round of opening-up and the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.
Over 35 lawmakers from the NPC Beijing delegation have endorsed the proposal, which has been accepted by the session and forwarded to special committees of the National Legislature for consideration, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
It is expected to be passed by the NPC on May 28, the last day of the current session. PTI KJV IND RUP RUP