China calls virus lawsuit brought by Missouri, ‘very absurd’

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaks during the daily press briefing in Beijing on March 18, 2020. – China on March 18 announced it would expel American journalists from three major US newspapers in one of the communist government’s biggest crackdowns on the foreign press, escalating a bitter row over media freedoms. (Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP) (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

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BEIJING – China on Wednesday slammed a lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. state of Missouri over the coronavirus pandemic as “very absurd.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the legal action has “no factual and legal basis at all” and repeated China’s defense of its response to the outbreak, which has largely subsided in the country where it was first detected.

The ministry and other Chinese government departments have strenuously denied accusations that officials delayed reporting on the extent of the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, despite reports that worries over political stability were placed above public health concerns. Medical staff who reported the outbreak were silenced under threat of legal retaliation and Wuhan went several days without reporting cases during the holding of an annual provincial government conference.

“This so-called lawsuit is very absurd and has no factual and legal basis at all,” Geng said at a daily briefing. Since the outbreak began, China has proceeded in an “open, transparent, and responsible manner” and the U.S. government should “dismiss such vexatious litigation,” he said.

Missouri’s top state prosecutor on Tuesday announced the lawsuit, which alleges that Chinese officials are to blame for the pandemic that has sickened around 2.5 million worldwide, thrown tens of millions out of work and devastated local economies, including in China.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt said the Chinese government lied about the dangers of the virus and didn’t do enough to slow its spread.

Missouri’s action is likely to be largely symbolic, however, since lawsuits against other countries typically don’t go anywhere because U.S. law generally prohibits them.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the number of Missouri deaths from the virus rose by 16 Tuesday to 215.

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