US Republican senators proposed legislation Tuesday that would empower President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on China if Beijing does not give a "full accounting" for the coronavirus outbreak.
"The Chinese Communist Party must be held accountable for the detrimental role they played in this pandemic," said Senator Jim Inhofe, one of the sponsors of the "COVID-19 Accountability Act."
"Their outright deception of the origin and spread of the virus cost the world valuable time and lives as it began to spread," he said in a statement.
The legislation will give Trump 60 days to certify to Congress that China has provided a full accounting on the COVID-19 outbreak to an investigation that could be led by the United States and its allies, or a United Nations body like the World Health Organization.
Trump must also certify that China has closed its highest-risk wet markets and released Hong Kong activists arrested in post-COVID-19 crackdowns.
Without certification, Trump would be authorized under the legislation to impose sanctions like asset freezes, travel bans and visa revocations, as well as restricting Chinese businesses' access to US bank financing and capital markets.
"China refuses to allow the international community to go into the Wuhan lab to investigate," said Senator Lindsey Graham, another sponsor of the bill.
"They refuse to allow investigators to study how this outbreak started. I'm convinced China will never cooperate with a serious investigation unless they are made to do so."
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