WASHINGTON – Today, in a letter to House and Senate leadership, Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Mike Johnson (LA-04) and RSC National Security & Foreign Affairs Task Force Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) outlined 10 conservative policy recommendations designed to hold the Chinese government accountable for any harmful actions it may have taken related to the COVID-19 pandemic (click here to view the signed letter). The proposal is one of five pillars that make up RSC’s 37-point Conservative Framework for Recovery, Accountability and Prosperity (click here for more information).
In the letter, the Task Force references numerous allegations that have been publicly made against China, including that it concealed critical information about the virus, silenced whistleblowers, and engineered the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 – going so far as to push blatantly false and dangerous claims that the virus was created by the U.S. military.
The Task Force also raises concerns about and urges an investigation of China’s influence within international institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which have defended China’s response to the pandemic.
The Task Force warns that failing to investigate and hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for actions found to have hidden or exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic would be a mistake. To that end, it recommends that Congress quickly take the following specific actions:
- Authorize sanctions against any foreign official who is found to have been involved in a COVID-19 cover-up, as would be authorized by the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act, sponsored by Rep. John Curtis (UT-03) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
- End all visas for Chinese government officials and their children to come to the U.S. whether for education, leisure, or other purposes, until China retracts its statements blaming the U.S. for the virus.
- Counter Chinese propaganda and disinformation efforts by enacting H.R. 1811, the Chinese Government and Communist Party's Political Influence Operations Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). This bill directs the Department of State to devise a long-term strategy to counter the Chinese government's political influence operations and requires a report on Chinese influence operations in the U.S.
- Prohibit the distribution of China Daily, a publication owned by the Chinese Communist Party, to congressional offices and require the Department of Justice to investigate China Daily’s compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. China Daily plays an important role in China’s ongoing disinformation efforts and yet is delivered to congressional offices alongside American newspapers.
- Limit the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) exception for academic activities to apply only if the activities do not promote the political agenda of a foreign country. This would ensure that Confucius Institutes, which are Chinese government-controlled language institutes on U.S. college campuses, are not used to promote Chinese political narratives. Also, reduce the threshold required for universities to disclose foreign contributions from $250,000 to $50,000. Both proposals are included in the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, introduced by Chairman Wilson.
- Press the Chinese government to permit access to China for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better respond to COVID-19 pandemic.
- Require the State Department to investigate the disappearance of three Chinese citizen journalists who sought to expose the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese city of Wuhan and enact sanctions on those found responsible for the disappearances under the Global Magnitsky Act, as requested in a letter authored by Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03).
- Undertake a congressional probe of the WHO, its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its relationship with China. Build off President Trump’s funding freeze by basing future federal funding decisions on the results of congressional and administration investigations along with adoption of reforms to instill independence, transparency, and accountability at the WHO.
- Ensure Taiwan’s membership in the WHO by passing H.R. 237, sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho (FL-03), to direct the Secretary of State to deliver a strategy to Congress regarding how the U.S. will work to regain observer status in the WHO.
- Enact H.R. 2744, the USAID Branding Modernization Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10), to authorize USAID to use American branding and insignia when providing foreign assistance. China has taken advantage of the crisis to distribute foreign assistance throughout the world using its own branding which makes it even more imperative that U.S. assistance is branded.
“When faced with the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus, China's communist regime made the deliberate choice to spread misinformation, suppress facts, and silence whistleblowers – misleading not only its own citizens about the severity of the virus, but the entire world,” said Johnson. “America has paid dearly during this pandemic, both in lives and livelihoods. If that is found to be a direct result of China’s actions, the Chinese government must be held accountable. The most effective way to do that would be for Congress to follow recommendations put forward by the RSC National Security & Foreign Affairs Task Force.”
“China’s lies and incompetence in responding to the Wuhan Virus outbreak cost thousands of lives throughout the world. The first victims have been the innocent people of China itself who are restrained by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) denying them basic freedoms and human rights,” said Wilson. These lies have also exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign of disinformation and malign influence in international institutions as well as here in the U.S. as official Chinese outlets have spread the outrageous conspiracy theory that the virus originated in a U.S. army lab. China has used the World Health Organization and other international institutions to help it in its cover-up and has worked to silence American colleges and universities through the malicious influence of Confucius Institutes on college campuses which are silencing criticism of the CCP.
“The American people will not tolerate the CCP’s lies any longer. The time has come to be tough on China and push back against its campaign of lies and disinformation. The RSC Foreign Affairs and National Security Task Force hopes that Congress can move this collection of common-sense policies to hold China accountable for its direct role in this pandemic.”