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GOP lawmakers call for new sanctions on senior Chinese officials

GOP lawmakers call for new sanctions on senior Chinese officials
© Greg Nash

Three House GOP lawmakers are calling on the Trump administration to place sanctions on multiple senior Chinese government officials over their initial response to the coronavirus crisis, saying the officials concealed information during the early stages of the outbreak.

In a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE, the Republicans advocated for the Trump administration to target specific individuals whom they feel are “responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” by utilizing the authority granted in the Global Magnitsky Act.

The law allows the government to freeze the funds of foreign officials held in U.S. banks in addition to preventing them from obtaining visas.

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“We believe their actions violated the 2005 International Health Regulations, the human rights of their citizens, and basic principles pot fairness and responsibility in international relations," reads the letter signed by GOP Reps. Lance GoodenLance GoodenChamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night GOP lawmakers call for new sanctions on senior Chinese officials Hillicon Valley: Uber lays off 3,000 | FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's phones | Lawmakers introduce bill restricting purchase of airline equipment from Chinese companies MORE (Texas), Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawFirst release from Fox News Books reaches No. 2 on Amazon top-seller list Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Annual Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery back on after backlash over cancellation MORE (Texas) and Jim Banks (Ind.), who was recently appointed to the House GOP’s China task force.

"Baffling and damaging decisions harmed Chinese citizens and the rest of the world, encouraged the spread of COVID-19, and hindered governments around the world from crafting an effective pandemic response,” the lawmakers continued.

“The result has been tens of thousands unnecessary American deaths and substantial economic damage. Therefore, we urge you to apply Global Magnitsky Sanctions to the following individuals and entities for their complicity in human rights abuses and the harm they've inflicted on the United States and our allies."

The Republicans cited multiple allegations that they said warrant repercussions, including claims of hiding key information and spreading misinformation about the virus’ origins during the early stages of the outbreak in addition to placing 30,000 Uighur Muslims at risk by sending them to work in government-run factories deemed unfit for other Chinese citizens.

The officials named in the letter include Deputy Mayor of Wuhan and Director of Wuhan Municipal Health Commission Chen Yongxin, Wuhan Public Security Bureau Director Li Yilong, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang, National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei, Hotan District Industry and Information Bureau Deputy Director Zhang Wei, Xinjiang Autonomous Region Politburo member Chen Quanguo and Hikvision Chairman Chen Zongnian.

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“If the actions of these individuals aren’t enough to earn a spot on the ‘Magnitsky List’, then I just don’t know what is,” Gooden said in a statement. “We are talking about the people who are directly responsible for downplaying the virus and suppressing the voices of those who rang the alarms. Such egregious violations of global human rights are exactly the kind of thing we should be using this authority to address."

The letter follows reporting from China's state-run media outlet that the country planned to impose “severe consequences” on a handful of GOP lawmakers who have been critical of the Chinese government and spearheaded legislation on the matter.

Banks dismissed the Chinese government’s threat of sanctions on China hawks in Congress and called on Pompeo to “hold Party officials accountable."

“The Chinese regime’s open threat to interfere in American elections is just the latest of many aggressive, hostile actions. It is desperate to avoid responsibility, so it has reverted to desperate tactics. I’m neither surprised nor intimidated--I’m encouraged,” he said in a statement.

“I know Secretary Pompeo shares my dim view of the Communist Party, and I look forward to working with him, and Reps. Crenshaw and Gooden to hold Party officials accountable. Starting with the seven on that list, who have significantly harmed the global economy and contributed to the deaths of countless American and Chinese citizens.”