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China's state-run media targeted congressional Republicans on Thursday for their outspoken stance against the nation's government and their condemnation of the country's nefarious actions concerning the novel coronavirus outbreak.
An article posted on the Global Times, which is a branch of the Communist Party of China's (CPC's) People's Daily, said the nation is "extremely dissatisfied with the abuse of litigation" by U.S. leadership, "and is considering punitive countermeasures against U.S. individuals, entities and state officials such as Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmitt."
Schmitt, a Republican, provided a statement to Fox News last month after he filed a lawsuit against China on behalf of the state, saying the impact of the virus has led to thousands of Missourians being infected, killed and economically devastated.
"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," he wrote.
Missouri officials explained that in addition to extracting a large financial judgment out of China, the state is looking to officially hold the nation's government accountable for its alleged actions, while also bringing the country's lack of transparency to light.
The Times article also claims that GOP Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Tom Cotton R-Ark., along with two other Republican members of Congress, will be added to China's sanctions list for their hardline political stances.
Hawley's rhetoric against the Chinese government dates back to long before the coronavirus outbreak. In an interview with Fox News last year about the National Basketball Association (NBA) kowtowing to China, the former state attorney general accused Beijing of using high-pressure tactics to bend people to its will.
"This is how Beijing plays ball. They tighten the screws," he said at the time. "Now they want to censor Americans. The thing about the NBA is, they're trying to tell Americans what we can and cannot say. My word to the NBA is, don't become part of the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda arm."
He also introduced legislation last month entitled the Justice for Victims of COVID-19 Act, which would allow U.S. citizens affected by the coronavirus to sue the CPC directly.
Cotton introduced similar legislation alongside Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas., last month that would allow Americans to sue the communist country in federal court, by amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
“By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe. Their decision to cover up the virus led to thousands of needless deaths and untold economic harm. It’s only appropriate that we hold the Chinese government accountable for the damage it has caused,” Cotton said in a statement.
The Global Times' story continually made veiled threats towards U.S. lawmakers by citing analysts who promised that "China won't just strike back symbolically, but will impose countermeasures that will make them feel the pain."
It then credited sources as saying: "Republicans who have been groundlessly accusing China and inflaming the 'holding China accountable' political farce will face severe consequences."
The article also noted the possible negative effects that a strained relationship with China might have on the U.S., specifically with regard to trade and the upcoming November elections.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who was also cited in the story for teaming up with Hawley on legislation that banned all federal employees from using TikTok on government devices, spoke with Fox News for an exclusive interview last week. He said he plans to hold the World Health Organization (WHO) and "Communist China" accountable for their role in the current pandemic, as the Senate continues to investigate the matter.
"We have failed to call out China for who they are -- call out these international organizations for who they are, and you see Democrats out there trying to defend the WHO. It's the craziest thing in the world," he said.
Scott added: "The biggest thing we can do is stop buying [China's] stuff. They steal our jobs, they steal our technology and now they've intentionally caused a problem that's killing American jobs, killing Americans and Europeans and people all over the world. So I think the biggest thing we can do is make sure Americans stop buying their products. And it's a twofer because then we help build our own economy up again by bringing manufacturing back here."
The Global Times piece quoted a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, who said during a press conference that the U.S. is attempting to use China as a scapegoat to mask its own failures. The story also threatened Missouri companies that have foreign investments in China with "severe consequences" in response to the lawsuit.
As of Thursday morning, there were over 1.39 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 84,000 deaths.
Fox News' Tyler Olson, Marisa Schultz and Adam Shaw contributed to this report