Washington, DC––Today, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and China Task force, delivered the following remarks on the House Floor. The Congressman advocated for his bill,  the Li Wenliang (李文亮) Global Public Health Accountability Act, that would authorize sanctions with respect to the deliberate concealment or distortion of information about public health emergencies of international concern. House Republicans voted to immediately bring up this legislation but it was blocked by Democratic Leadership.

“By suppressing critical public health information, officials abroad have demonstrated they care more about maintaining their grip on power than the health and wellbeing of the world population. This bill will change that by ensuring these cronies will not see the perks provided by their corruption. By passing this bill today we will honor Dr. Li Wenliang (李文亮), set the global standard for transparency, and crackdown on corruption and human rights abuses. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

Background

There is strong and growing evidence that Chinese officials accelerated the spread of COVID-19 by choosing to not take early action to stop the virus, even after Chinese Doctor Li Wenliang blew the whistle on the virus’ capabilities. He was reprimanded by local authorities and later died from the virus. Other authoritarian countries such as Iran and Russia have been criticized for their lack of transparency as well.  

The Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act would sanction any foreign senior official responsible for deliberately concealing vital public health data concerning the outbreak of a disease with the potential to become a pandemic. It would also sanction any official who profited off of the concealment of information, and anyone acting on their behalf. Sanctions include the revoking of visas and the seizing of assets.

Text of the bill available [HERE].

The full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

“I rise today in support of my legislation, the Li Wenliang (李文亮) Global Public Health Accountability Act, that would sanction any Senior Foreign Official who conceals information—including through forced detentions and disappearances—about the outbreak of a pandemic, including COVID-19.

On December 30, 2019 Dr. Li Wenliang (李文亮), warned his medical school classmates of an outbreak of an unknown SARS-like virus over WeChat. 

Wuhan’s Public Security Bureau detained, questioned and forced Dr. Li Wenliang to sign a letter confessing he made “false comments” that “severely disturbed the social order.”

On February 7, 2020 Dr. Li Wenliang (李文亮) died of a severe case of COVID–19.

A study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited.

By suppressing critical public health information, officials abroad have demonstrated they care more about maintaining their grip on power than the health and wellbeing of the world population. This bill will change that by ensuring these cronies will not see the perks provided by their corruption.

By passing this bill today we will honor Dr. Li Wenliang (李文亮), set the global standard for transparency, and crack down on corruption and human rights abuses. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. 

I urge my colleagues to defeat the previous question so that we can consider my bill. I yield back.”

###