Missouri Is Now (Checks Notes) Suing China, Apparently

Apr 21, 2020 at 4:06 pm
Looks like you just met your match, China. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Looks like you just met your match, China.

The mere fact that 2020 is the most surreal year of most of our lives doesn't mean that things can't get even stranger. To that point: The state of Missouri is now suing the country of China.

In a press release sent Tuesday afternoon, the office of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that it would be pressing charges against "the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party, and other Chinese officials and institutions" under allegations that the country's actions surrounding COVID-19 have led to "loss of life and severe economic consequences in Missouri."

Missouri is the first and only state in the whole of the union to file such a lawsuit. In a list of key factual allegations sent with the release, the AG's office accuses the Chinese government of "denying the risk of human-to-human transmission," "silencing whistleblowers," "failing to contain the outbreak" and "hoarding personal protective equipment."

“COVID-19 has done irreparable damage to countries across the globe, causing sickness, death, economic disruption and human suffering," Attorney General Schmitt says in the statement. "In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real — thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table."

And before you get the wild idea that an attorney general of a Midwestern American state filing a lawsuit against a totalitarian government in the middle of an election year is some sort of PR stunt — you hopeless cynic, you — the Missouri Republican Party followed up with a press release of its own, assuring Missourians that this is a very real thing and it is because Schmitt loves you very much.

“Attorney General Eric Schmitt has always been a leader in the fight to protect Missouri citizens," writes executive director Jean Evans. "Today, he has taken direct action to hold the Communist Regime of China accountable for their purposeful coverup and negligence in handling of the COVID-19 virus. China lied to the world and people died, including hundreds of Missourians. They should face consequences for their inexcusable behavior.”

The suit accuses China of one count of public nuisance, one count of abnormally dangerous activities and two counts of breach of duty, and suggests that possible remedies might involve "civil penalties and restitution, abatement of the public nuisance, cessation of abnormally dangerous activities, punitive damages, and more."

In other words, as a coworker put it upon hearing the news, "When Missouri gets the Great Wall of China in the settlement, I hope we install it on our southern border to keep Arkansas out."

Missouri joins several private groups who have filed at least seven class-action suits against China in recent days, and comes shortly after 22 Republican lawmakers requested Monday that the Trump administration bring a case against China in international court on account of its actions in the early days of the pandemic, the Hill reports.

Speaking with the Washington Post, Ashley Deeks, an international law expert at the University of Virginia School of Law, says that most lawsuits against other countries don't really go anywhere because U.S. law itself prohibits them, with rare exceptions.

With that in mind, were this a stunt, it would be a dramatic case of one-upmanship from the stunts of our previous attorney-general-turned-senator, Josh Hawley, whose whole shtick back in the 2018 race against Claire McCaskill mostly involved challenging the former senator to debate him on the back of a flatbed truck while simultaneously having no idea what a flatbed truck even is.

Go big or go home, I guess. Better lawyer up, China.
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