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EXCLUSIVE: A bipartisan resolution being introduced by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., Tuesday, condemns the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, painting a stark picture of lies and mismanagement contributing to the pandemic that has infected nearly 390,000 people worldwide and killed more than 16,700.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Banks led the drive to round up co-sponsors for the resolution Monday which so far has seen Reps. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., Austin Scott, R-Ga., Trent Kelly, R-Miss., Brian Babin, R-Texas, Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Greg Steube, R-Fla., Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., Mike Rogers, R-Ala., Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., and Jason Smith, R-Mo., sign on.
This resolution comes as tensions between the U.S. and China are running high over the Chinese government's high-powered propaganda campaign seeking to paint itself as the global coronavirus savior while several U.S. officials and politicians, including President Trump, have taken to calling the coronavirus the "Chinese virus" in reference to its origins in Wuhan, a city in China.
The resolution argues that the Chinese government "made multiple, serious mistakes in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak that heightened the severity and spread of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which include the Chinese government's intentional spread of misinformation to downplay the risks fo the virus, a refusal to cooperate with international health authorities, internal censorship of doctors and journalists and malicious disregard for the health of ethnic minorities."
Specifically, the resolution suggests that China was aware of a novel coronavirus strain in mid-December, with multiple doctors raising the alarm among the Chinese medical community before the new year. But, the resolution says, Chinese authorities muzzled those doctors, including on Jan. 3 forcing one to "sign a letter confessing that he had made 'false comments' that 'severely disturbed the social order.'"
The largely Republican group of representatives also condemns China for its treatment of the Uighur Muslims, a religious minority from which U.S. government officials believe China has rounded up between 800,000 and 2 million people, placing them in reeducation camps that function largely as forced labor camps.
They condemn "the detention of over 1,000,000 [Uighur] Muslims and other ethnic minorities in 're-education camps', whose crowded and unsanitary conditions makes the camps hotspots for viral disease and leave prisoners at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19."
Finally, the resolution lays out the Chinese government's propaganda campaign to paper over its responsibility for the rapid spread of the coronavirus, specifically mentioning its lack of cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; a foreign ministry spokesman who "claimed that COVID-19 originated in the United States and that the United States army brought the virus to Wuhan to wage biological warfare" on China; and China's move to expel journalists with the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times.
The move to expel journalists caught the attention of the highest levels of the U.S. government last week, with the National Security Council responding with harsh words and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is not a co-sponsor of the Banks resolution, rebuking the Chinese government.
"This brazen assault on the free press by the Chinese Communist Party is appalling," Schiff tweeted March 17. "That it occurred in the midst of a public health crisis, when the flow of unbiased information to the public is critical, is also dangerous. China's attempts to silence the truth must not stand."
Banks himself has also weighed in on the expulsion of the American journalists.
"The Chinese Communist Party are masters at disinformation," he tweeted last week. "They've lied about coronavirus before. They kicked out American news outlets this week because they know we don't help push their propaganda. News outlets should be wary of 'facts' they're pushing."
It also mentions a study from the University of Southampton which claims "if China had taken action 3 weeks earlier, the spread of coronavirus would be reduced by 95 percent globally."
The resolution demands that China backtrack on its decision to kick out the American journalists, free the Uighur Muslims in its camps, and asks for a retraction from the World Health Organization, which has been accused of carrying China's water over its coronavirus response, over comments made by its leaders praising China for "leadership" and "transparency."
It is unclear when or if the resolution will receive a vote on the House floor.
Fox News' Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.