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Missouri just sued China for the way it's handled the public health crisis. Yes, really.

After residents in Missouri took to the streets to protest the state Governor's stay-at-home orders, the Attorney General pulled a publicity stunt like no other.

Missouri just sued China for the way it's handled the public health crisis. Yes, really.
Image Source: Protestors Rally Against Stay-At-Home Order At Washington State Capitol. OLYMPIA, WA - APRIL 19. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Missouri Governor Mike Parson issued a stay-at-home order effective April 6, 2020, through May 3, 2020, after much delay and persuasion. However, several residents were unhappy about this when they realized this meant they could not go into work - or get haircuts. Therefore, hundreds of protestors gathered Tuesday to put on a wave of demonstrations against the self-isolation directive. While the order is yet to be lifted, the local government of Missouri decided to placate its residents with a lawsuit — against China. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt alleged in a recently-filed lawsuit against the Asian country that they did little to nothing to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, the BBC reports.

 



 

According to Schmitt, the way China handled the novel virus has resulted in "possibly tens of billions of dollars in economic damages" that the residents of Missouri have had to bear the brunt of. He affirmed in a 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." This, unfortunately, is the story of individuals across the United States. Over the past month, 22 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment insurance.

 



 

However, the Attorney General believes - much like the country's President Donald Trump - that China is to be blamed for the major economic losses. "The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease," Schmitt affirmed. "They must be held accountable for their actions." Perhaps in an effort to hold them accountable for their actions (or lack of it), the state of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, and other Chinese officials and institutions.

 



 

While this is quite a strong stance to take, legal experts suggest that the lawsuit is unlikely to get very far. At present, a legal doctrine called sovereign immunity gives foreign governments broad protection from being sued in US courts. Tom Ginsburg, a professor of international law at the University of Chicago, explained, "There is an exception for torts committed in the United States by officials acting in an official capacity; the paradigm would be something like a car accident in an embassy car." Furthermore, if Missouri is worried about economic losses, the Attorney General should also consider just how expensive it would be to take an entire country to court. After all, taxpayers will bear the costs of suing the Chinese government.

 



 

Chimène Keitner, an international law professor at the University of California, said, "Taxpayers fund the Attorney General's office, and any time spent by staff lawyers on this lawsuit is time not spent on other important matters." If anything, the lawsuit may just be a publicity stunt orchestrated by Schmitt. Stu Loeser, a New York-based media strategist, joked, "There's an old joke in American politics that in every state the AG stands for the Attorney General, but it also stands for Aspiring Governor." Unfortunately, the attention that Schmitt is currently receiving from the media could mean that other states will follow suit. Meanwhile, China has reiterated that they did not mishandle the crisis. Nonetheless, it is important to focus efforts on the areas that matter most during the ongoing public health crisis. Professor Ginsburg stated, "In my opinion, their Governors and Attorneys General should spend their efforts trying to keep their populations safe."

 



 

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