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U.S. falsely accusing China undermines international rule of law

By  Zhong Sheng (People's Daily)    11:01, May 15, 2020

For a long time, some American politicians and organizations, out of ulterior motives, have stirred up trouble based on hearsay, knitting the conspiracy theory about the origin of COVID-19 and trying to hold China accountable for the pandemic and claim compensation from the country.

On May 12, Lindsey Graham, Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, even introduced the so-called COVID-19 Accountability Act to instigate chaos again, showing a total disregard for the law.

A major infectious disease outbreak is classified as a public health emergency as well as a force majeure in terms of legal theories.

From the aspect of substantive law, the existing international legal system hasn’t specified in any way that the country where a virus has been first discovered should assume responsibility.

It is widely known that the virus came into being purely by accident and it is obviously unfair to falsely accuse pandemic-hit regions and people and cause secondary damage.

According to procedural law, the principles of sovereign equality and immunity indicate that the courts in one country have no right of jurisdiction over the sovereign act of a foreign government to prevent and control the epidemic.

The Charter of the United Nations (UN) stipulates the principle of sovereign equality. “Equals have no sovereignty over each other,” said the Roman law. The doctrine from ancient Rome has formed the basis of state immunity in the course of history and been supported by the judicial practice of the sovereign states nowadays.

A sovereign state is thus exempt from the jurisdiction of foreign national courts, a right protected by the international law rather than a “gift” given by foreign government.

It should also be noted that the estoppel principle of the international law requires countries to be consistent in applying the rules. As some U.S. politicians found no legal grounds for butting in China’s anti-pandemic attempts, they didn’t simply give up.

To justify their accusations against China, they intend to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of the U.S., a commitment of the country to sovereign immunity.

Such a move will not only impair the logic and operation of the international law, but trigger global sovereign litigation, causing chaos in the international legal system and putting a strain on international relations.

Many legal experts in the world have made remarks to expose the true faces of some U.S. officials behind such clumsy tricks.

Some American politicians have claimed that the novel coronavirus originates from a lab in Wuhan, China, yet they fail to provide any evidence, said Lawrence Gostin, Professor of Global Health Law at the Georgetown University of the U.S.

Facts should matter, instead of unfounded allegations made by some media and individuals, noted Armin von Bogdandy, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, adding that he disagrees that China has to pay the damages.

Peter Hilpold, Austrian legal expert as well as Professor of International Law at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, pointed out that the unconfirmed claims from the U.S. has damaged China’s reputation and for this, China could also claim compensation from America.

The law has to be based on evidence and facts. To find out the origin of the virus is a serious scientific problem as well as a professional issue that needs to be tackled with reason, which makes it necessary to listen to and respect the opinions of scientists and professionals.

There is a general consensus in the international scientific community that the novel coronavirus is neither man-made nor genetically engineered.

With the further investigation and research into the virus, the pandemic turns out to happen much earlier than people thought in many countries. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) made it clear that the source of the virus couldn’t be determined yet.

The joint statement of 27 well-known medical experts from 8 countries recently published on The Lancet and Nature, both authoritative journals in the world, and the reports released by professionals from America, Australia and Britain have also confirmed that the virus wasn’t man-made.

Faced with such facts, some Americans have already become a laughingstock for their embarrassing and untenable accusations.

Despite feeble arguments, some U.S. officials still refuse to halt the farce of trying to hold China responsible and claim damages. It is evident that they are plotting to politically blackmail China through the presumption of guilt.

Tom Ginsburg, Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago, pointed out that many right-wing politicians in the U.S. are focusing on China’s problem to whitewash their own mistakes.

Justice naturally inhabits a man’s heart. By falsely accusing China, the U.S. is openly undermining international rule of law, which is meant to protect fairness and justice, not to be used as a tool by some U.S. officials to politically blackmail other countries.

To quote an ancient Chinese saying, “Turn inward and examine yourself when you encounter difficulties in life.” Amid the global epidemic, the U.S. government needs to reflect on itself, give priority to safeguarding the life security and physical health of its people, and stop harming both itself and others.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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