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Reality Check of US Allegations Against China on COVID-19 (XIX)

19. Allegation: China is responsible for the global spread of COVID-19. There must be investigations and lawsuits against China to hold it accountable and make it pay for COVID-19.

Reality Check: There is zero legal basis for holding China accountable and making it pay for COVID-19. Essentially, some US politicians are trying to shift the blame out of domestic political agenda.


◆COVID-19 is a natural, not man-made, disaster. China, like other countries, is a victim, not a culprit.

◆A pandemic is a global public health emergency. There is no such a thing as "state responsibility" of the first country to report cases. HIV/AIDS was first detected in the US in the 1980s and has since spread to the whole world, but the international community has never demanded that the US take responsibility or pay reparations.

◆The US has no legal ground to demand that China be held accountable and pay for COVID-19. According to international law, state responsibility occurs when acts of the responsible state constitute a breach of international law and there is a causal link between such acts and losses suffered by the injured state. China's COVID-19 response does not breach any international law, nor does it have any causal relationship with any losses the US may suffer due to the massive outbreak of the virus. The US attempt at the so-called investigations into China's response is based on the presumption of guilt.

◆There is no bilateral treaty or agreement between China and the US on public health and emergency events. As such, there can be no breach of any bilateral obligation. Although the International Health Regulations (IHR) only requires the state party to notify WHO of a public health event, China still provided the US with timely and continuous updates on the virus. The US was among the first countries to be informed about the virus in China and has since received continuous updates. In the face of COVID-19, China has all along acted with openness, transparency and a sense of responsibility. It has promptly released information and notified WHO of the virus, taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures, and faithfully fulfilled its duties and obligations under the IHR.

◆The so-called lawsuits in the US are ill-intended and groundless. They are also against general principles of law. According to the principle of sovereign equality under international law, sovereign acts by governments at all levels in China in response to COVID-19 are not subject to the jurisdiction of US courts. Those unwarranted lawsuits not only undermine the US response to the disease, but also run counter to international cooperation on fighting COVID-19.

◆On 4 May, one of the world's top magazines, Nature, published a study by experts from China, the US, and the UK, according to whose modeling framework that the three major groups of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) (inter-city travel restrictions, early identification and isolation of cases, and contact restrictions and social distancing) taken by China not only contained the spread of COVID-19 in China, but also bought precious time for the world. The study points out that without the combined NPIs, the COVID-19 cases in China would likely have shown a 67-fold increase to over 7 million.


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