China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday criticized a lawsuit by the state of Missouri that seeks damages from China over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This so-called lawsuit is very absurd and has no factual and legal basis at all,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press conference. Geng added that China has acted in an “open, transparent, and responsible manner” throughout the pandemic, and that the U.S. should “dismiss such vexatious litigation.”
Missouri state attorney general Eric Schmitt announced the lawsuit on Tuesday. The suit accuses various Chinese government entities of negligence in their attempts to contain the initial coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan, and charges that China deceived the world by hiding the true extent of the outbreak.
“If you look at how this all played out, in the suppression of information at a really critical time, there’s just no other conclusion you can draw: the Chinese government is responsible for this,” Schmitt told National Review in an interview on Wednesday.
Suing a foreign government is generally prohibited by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, although there are exceptions written in the legislation. Schmitt believes the claims of the suit fit within the “commercial activities” exception, which denies foreign governments immunity from lawsuits involving those governments’ commercial activities in the U.S.
“We believe that those common law claims that we have fit squarely within that exception, which is why we think we’ll ultimately be successful…to the tune of tens of billions of dollars,” Schmitt said.
U.S. intelligence has reportedly concluded that China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak within its borders and even worked to spread disinformation about supposed national lockdowns in the U.S. in March. Various U.S. officials have called for an investigation of China’s “cover up” of the outbreak.