Senator Lindsey Graham of North Carolina on Tuesday introduced a bill that would allow President Donald Trump to impose sanctions against China if it refuses to comply with an international investigation into the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, Beijing state media has continued to taunt America’s allegedly poor handling of the pandemic.
Graham introduced the COVID-19 Accountability Act along with eight other GOP senators including Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Florida Senator Rick Scott. “I’m convinced China will never cooperate with a serious investigation unless they are made to do so,” the senator said.
Under the proposed legislation, China would have 60 days to provide a transparent accounting of any coronavirus-related investigation, close all operating wet markets to minimize the risk of zoonotic diseases which can move from human to animal, and release “all pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong that were arrested in the post COVID-19 crackdowns.”
If Trump cannot verify to Congress that those actions have occurred within 60 days of the legislation going into effect, then the president will have the option to levy sanctions against China. Among the options for sanctions include freezing the assets of some Chinese officials, revoking visas for some Chinese officials and banning student visas for Chinese nationals.
Graham, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, has echoed the president in blaming China for the outbreak. The senator has also called for Beijing to be held accountable for the damage caused in the U.S. by coronavirus.
U.S. officials claim China was not forthcoming with information pertaining to the virus. In May, Trump said that he had seen intelligence that proves the coronavirus had escaped from a Chinese lab.
Chinese officials claim they have been transparent with information about the virus and made all of its research available. China’s state-owned Xinhua News agency on Tuesday released an animated propaganda video mocking America’s allegedly poor response to the virus.
Called Once Upon A Virus, the video depicts the U.S. as the Statue of Liberty while a Chinese warrior is shown wearing a face mask. When the Chinese character brags about building a temporary hospital in ten days, the U.S. calls it a “concentration camp.” After being told the virus has gone airborne, the U.S. figure says, “It will magically go away in April,” echoing the words of President Trump.
At a political rally in March, Trump told attendees that rising temperatures in April would make the virus dissipate. “The virus that we’re talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat, as the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April,” the president said.
Newsweek reached out to Senator Graham and Xinhua Media for further comment. This story will be updated with any response.