Opinion Op Ed 05 May 2020 Suing China: Wishful ...

Suing China: Wishful thinking or could it be a dream come true?

Published May 5, 2020, 7:31 pm IST
Updated May 5, 2020, 7:45 pm IST
Many countries in the world feel that China deliberately lied and tried its best to coverup the whole issue
A staff member wearing a face shield gestures at a long-distance bus station in Wuhan in China's central Hubei. AFP Photo
 A staff member wearing a face shield gestures at a long-distance bus station in Wuhan in China's central Hubei. AFP Photo

A handful of western countries have come out in the open, criticizing China at a level unseen in the past 30 years. These countries and many others feel that china is responsible for the Global Pandemic.The angst of the west and a few in the east is well justified given the economic devastation and the loss of life specially in western Europe and the US, the anger is more so because of the way Chinese authorities hid the facts about the Corona Virus and unleashed a pandemic which the world hasn’t seen in over a century.

 Many countries in the world feel that China deliberately lied and tried its best to coverup the whole issue, it could have been a face-saving exercise for the Chinese government and they made good use of the WHO in suppressing the facts about the virus. The WHO, in the early days of the Virus outbreak, said that COVID 19 does not spread through human transmission and that countries should not impose travel ban on china. Finally, the WHO declared it a Pandemic after the virus spread over a hundred countries but it was too late because by then people in western Europe were dying by the hundreds per day.


The Covid-19 has affected more thanfew million people directly till date as they have tested positive, the stunning death toll in the west particularly in western Europe and the USA has been alarmingly high,the so called “great western countries with the best medical facilities,” could not cope with the number of deaths. Everyone watching news on various channels could see that many of the dead did not have proper funerals, had to be kept in freezer trucks and later buried at newly dug up mass burial grounds as the cemeteries in many cities did not have place for so many bodies.


It is only now, after couple months into the pandemic and after more than 100,000 thousand deaths, some of these countries in the west wish to sue China.  They are mainly represented by Law firms and Media with and exception of two states in the US, Missouri and Mississippi. It’s A law firm in US that wants to sue China for 6 Trillion, A tabloid named Bild in Germany for 130 Billion, The Brits want 300 Billion and Australia which doesn’t like to be left far behind its cousins in Europe and US wants China to be made responsible and some are asking for some sort an international Tribunal which can conduct a trial.


The anger, the quest for truth as to what actuallyhappened in Wuhan,China? why it was not contained within China? Are legitimate questions and the class action suit being filed to sue China for its culpability, negligence is totally justified.The big Questionwe should ask ourselves is, is it really possible to Sue China,it’s leadership and what are the chances to get them to pay up Trillions of dollars?

The fact is: like Many countries in the world, China enjoys “Sovereign immunity “, which in simple terms means that you cannot sue the country or its government, It is based on the common law maxim “The King can do no wrong”, this has been embedded into many international treaties, international organizations, tribunals etc. Various Nation states use it to protect their own country and people.


The exception being that the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) which is the ruling elite in China waives it’s Sovereign immunity, only then it can be subjected to a trial in any court or various other legal actions  by affected parties, including class action suits, trial by special International tribunal like the Nuremberg Trial or trial by the international Court of Justice.  People should not be under any illusionsthat The CCP would agree to waive its Sovereign immunity, that would be the last thing that CCP would ever do. it would be foolish for the rest of world to even think of it or expect it from China.


Law firms may file cases in their respective country and if the Chinese govt doesn’t bother to represent itself in court then the plaintiff may be awarded an ex-partedecree to collect on the Chinese government Assets in those countries. Now the most important question in this whole aspect of suing China is who or which country will take the lead and demand a trial in the ICJ or some UN mandated tribunal to try the Chinese leaders or officials responsible for this alleged cover up and negligence by the powers that be in the CCP. President XI Jing Ping is no Slobodan Milosevic or some African leader that he will heed to the demands of a group of western countries to either submit himself or any of his ruling elite to a trial by an International court/tribunal.


The only country that can pressurize the Chinese is the USA. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making some noise that China should be made responsible but at this moment it’s all mere rhetoric to pacify the domestic audience in the US. Only Donald Trump can do this, if he really wants to.  He can take the lead and along with a few countries that matter in Western Europe and with the help of Japan, India, Australia can try to impose sanctions on China if they don’t pay up for the loses incurred by countries around the world.  The big question is: will he do it and can he do it?


Well, The Presidential elections in the US are in November, so Trump will be busy with that and before that he needs to get the US economy up and running and create millions of jobs in order to win the elections. Secondly, let’s just imagine for the sake of discussion that China comes up with a Vaccine against Covid-19 by August or October this year, then what would happen to all the cry for compensation?

The whole world will make a beeline with folded hands at china’s doorsteps for the Vaccine and forget any compensation from China, also note that given the economic and military might of china, not many countries will dare to impose sanctions on their own or even directly ask for compensation and the Chinese know this very well.


The whole world knows the origin of the virus and the subsequent coverup by the Chinese and also the fact that Xi Jing Ping let about five million people to leave the Chinese shores from Wuhan soon after the outbreak of the Virus, that too without testing them for virus.These people travelled to various countries in the world and that lead to the spread of the virus all over the world, the damage and the loss of life could have been minimized had there been an early lock down of Wuhan.

To expect the Chinese to pay up for the loss of life and other losses on their own is to expect miracles to happen and we all know that the Chinese rulers, the communist party, don’t believe in religion, superstitions and Miracles. To expect a handful of countries led by the USA to either impose sanctions or take military action or subject CCP to legal action will be nothing short of all our dreams coming true.


Given the current geopolitical, economic and military strength of China and the absence of leadership in the world to make China responsible for the spread of the virus and subsequent loss of life, economy and everything else that’s going on all over the world that many generations have never seen anything like this and even though there is immense and immeasurable pain and agony because of what is happening, we are in a situation where even to expect justice in the form of compensation is wishful thinking and can only say “We Have A Dream” , and keep dreaming that dreams will come true!!