Pneumonia Epidemic: An Analysis of Missouri v. China Government from a Legal Perspective

Missouri, the United States, sued the Chinese government on the 22nd, saying it was ineffective in preventing and controlling the outbreak of the new coronavirus, causing residents of the state to suffer substantial economic losses.

The United States has at least seven lawsuits against China for the epidemic, and Missouri is the only state government among the plaintiffs. These lawsuits allege that China is suspected of taking intentional actions or neglecting its duties, leading to the spread of the new crown epidemic.

Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that these alleged accusations have no factual and legal basis and are malicious abuses.

Legal practitioners generally believe that similar litigation cannot achieve practical results because foreign governments enjoy legal immunity in the United States.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University in the United States, was interviewed by the BBC in Chinese to analyze the “foreign sovereign immunity” rules, the amendment of the new bill by Congress, and the possibility of the US accusing China of an international court.

Missouri sues Beijing for loss due to epidemic, and China calls it “malicious abuse.”

What is “foreign sovereign immunity”?
The United States established the “Regulations on Foreign Sovereign Immunity” in 1976, giving foreign governments extensive immunity.

If China can be sued in the United States, the United States may also be sued in China. Hence, countries generally tend to support the general rule of sovereign immunity, Terry said.

Terry said that the local court in Missouri is likely to find that the case involves matters between the United States and another sovereign country. The court has no judicial decision on this matter, so the issue is withdrawn.

There is a lot of evidence that China has deceived and negligently responded to the epidemic, but the success rate of holding China accountable through civil litigation is meager.

What are the exceptions to sovereign immunity?

A common exception to sovereign immunity is that litigation revolves around the commercial conduct of foreign governments. Therefore, several claims against China, including the Missouri v. China case, the Wuhan Virus Laboratory, and the South China Seafood Market, are commercial venues but are controlled by the Chinese government.

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