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Rubio leads group of senators introducing bill to impose sanctions on China over COVID origins

Florida’s Republican U.S. senators have introduced a bill to impose sanctions on China if the communist country continues to prevent “a credible and comprehensive international investigation into the origins of COVID-19 at laboratories in Wuhan.”

Their actions follow decisions made by Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to divest state financial investments in China.

The ‘‘Coronavirus Origin Validation, Investigation, and Determination Act of 2022’’ was filed Wednesday by Sen. Marco Rubio and 15 co-sponsors, including Florida’s junior senator and former Gov. Rick Scot.

The bill follows an earlier attempt by Rubio to impose sanctions on China. Last June, he introduced a bill to sanction China for failing to allow a credible, comprehensive international investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

“The Chinese Communist Party does not want a full, forensic investigation into the origins of COVID-19,” Rubio said when introducing the June bill.

“Instead of hoping the Chinese authorities will suddenly cooperate, the United States needs to compel them to cooperate. One obvious step in that direction is to cut off federal funding for research conducted with these state-run Chinese entities. We must impose sanctions against the leadership of these entities and exact a personal cost. It is time for the U.S. to take action and lead an international response that settles for nothing less than a full forensic investigation of the Wuhan labs.”

This week’s bill would sanction the leadership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and its affiliated institutes and laboratories, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It would also suspend U.S. federal research funding across all academic fields for studies that involve the CAS, and prohibit gain-of-function virus research involving any individual or institution based in the U.S. that receives federal funding and partners with a Chinese-based individual or institution.

If enacted into law, it would also impose sanctions on Chinese officials “who were involved in concealing the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China from the international community, restricting the release of information related to the outbreak, understating the severity of the outbreak, and obstructing an international investigation into the origin of the outbreak,” according to a statement released by Rubio’s office.

“For two years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has stonewalled all efforts to uncover the true origins of COVID-19,” Rubio said in a statement. “We know the virus originated in China, however, the CCP’s attempts to obfuscate the truth has led to countless deaths and needless suffering worldwide.” He argues that if his bill is enacted, Beijing would be forced to respond.

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“Again and again, General Secretary Xi and his underlings in the Chinese Communist Party have blocked attempts to find the truth by lying about COVID’s transmission, censoring doctors and shifting blame,” Scott said.

Cosponsors of the bill are Republican Sens. Tim Scott, John Cornyn, Kevin Cramer, Roger Marshall, Steve Daines, Chuck Grassley, James Lankford, Ben Sasse, Tommy Tuberville, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mike Braun, Marsha Blackburn, Bill Hagert, and John Kennedy.

The sanctions would become effective 90 days after the bill passes.

DeSantis is also taking action against China, but in a different way.

Last month, DeSantis announced Florida was “taking action against China and ‘woke corporations’” operating in the state to ensure Florida’s pension funds weren’t being invested in Chinese companies. The state will be conducting a survey of all of the investments of the Florida Retirement System to determine how many assets Florida has in Chinese companies.

By “retaking control of the state pension fund’s proxy voting from outside fund managers who may pursue social ideologies inconsistent with the state’s values or the financial interests of the state’s investments, and by determining the state’s exposure to Chinese investments,” Florida’s fiscal footing will be strengthened, DeSantis argues.

The policy change sends a message “to those in corporate America who prop up a genocidal, authoritarian, imperialist regime that they will not do so with Floridians’ money,” he added.

DeSantis also instructed the state legislature to make statutory changes to prevent Florida from using taxpayer dollars to invest in China and to look into ways to bring jobs and manufacturing to Florida instead of relying on Chinese manufacturing and jobs.

On Tuesday, when highlighting job creation incentives in his budget proposal, and mentioning that more businesses were moving to Florida, DeSantis said, “We should also be actively encouraging businesses to repatriate production back to America from foreign countries. Do we really want our supply chains to be captive to the whims of a country such as Communist China?”

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