China may cop $6 trillion virus lawsuit
Amid the global pandemic, a new report claims China should pay for the COVID-19 disaster that has caused tens of thousands of deaths and shattered the global economy.
"How much should China pay for breaking the world?"
"They have a practice of taking those parts of international law that work for them, and rejecting those where they might have to meet an obligation," an interviewee sayss.
The calls for a lawsuit come as China faces mass speculation over where the virus originated and why the country did not move sooner to sound the global alarm.
According to the Coronavirus Compensation? report carried out by conservative UK think tank The Henry Jackson Society, lawsuits against the nation could hit "at least" $A6.5 trillion from G7 nations alone.
Authors Matthew Henderson, Dr Alan Mendoza, Dr Andrew Foxall, James Rogers and Sam Armstrong argued the Chinese government's early handling of the disease and "failure to adequately report information to the WHO" breached several articles of the International Health Regulations, of which China is a signatory.
The body's research details several actions from Chinese authorities that are concerning:
- Failure to disclose data showing evidence human-to-human transmission "for a period of up to three weeks from being aware of it".
- Giving the World Health Organisation incorrect information about the rate of infections from January 2, 2020 to January 11, 2020.
- Allowing five million people to leave Wuhan before introducing a lockdown on January 23.
- "Lack of information" from China delaying other nations' responses to the virus, such as travel screening.
As a result of those alleged breaches, the body said public international lawyers might "make use of relevant clauses in order to uphold international norms" and force China to pay up.
Talk of a lawsuit comes just after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton recently called for the Communist Party of China to display "a level of transparency" over the virus.
"The US is saying they've got documentation which demonstrates that the virus had a particular path or origin. I think they'll detail all of that information," he told the Nine Network, reiterating that Australians had a right to know the truth.
"Hundreds of people are obviously very gravely ill as a result in our country. Look at the loss overseas. All of those families would demand answers and transparency" he said.
"And, I don't think it's too much to ask. It would certainly be demanded of us if Australia was at the epicentre of this virus making its way into society.
"So I think it is incumbent upon China to answer those questions and provide the information, so that people can have clarity about exactly what happened because we don't want it to be repeated. And, we know that this is not the first instance of a virus being spread from the wildlife wet markets and we need to be honest about that."
Mr Dutton, who himself tested positive for coronavirus, predicts the global expectations of China will shift dramatically moving forward.
"I do think there will be a reset about the way in which the world interacts with China. We do want more transparency," he said.
US President Donald Trump has echoed Mr Dutton's sentiments, calling out China for a "lack of transparency" in a recent public address.
The President even went so far as to fuel speculation that the virus may have escaped from the lab to the wet markets by accident, caused by an experiment in a Wuhan lab.
Officials in China pointed to a wet market as the supposed ground zero of the outbreak - but sources claim the market never sold bats, labelling it a likely attempt to deflect blame from the laboratories in Wuhan.
Despite China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday denying the accusations - saying the World Health Organisation has no evidence - President Trump insists the US are investigating the origins.
"More and more we're hearing the story … we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation," he said.
Earlier this month, US intelligence agencies submitted a classified report to the White House in which they concluded the death and infection toll of the outbreak in China was also being deliberately under-reported.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is working to connect the dots.
"What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was," he said.
"There is still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure it out."
Originally published as China may cop $6 trillion virus lawsuit