Two Sessions: China vows to retaliate if US passes law allowing sanctions for coronavirus

Zhang Yesui is seen on a media centre screen during a news briefing in Beijing, May 21, 2020.
Zhang Yesui is seen on a media centre screen during a news briefing in Beijing, May 21, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - China has threatened to hit back if the United States passes legislation aimed at making the East Asian giant accountable for the coronavirus outbreak.

The law, proposed last week, could give President Donald Trump the power to slap a range of sanctions on China including prohibiting Chinese companies from listing on its stock exchange, freezing assets and revoking visas.

In a late-night press conference that was a prelude to China’s week-long national legislature meeting opening on Friday (May 22), a spokesman for the country’s highest organ of state power said Beijing will watch how the Bill proceeds and “will firmly respond by taking countermeasures accordingly”.

Mr Zhang Yesui, the National People’s Congress (NPC) spokesman, also cast doubt over the origin of the virus, saying it was up to scientists to determine where it came from.

“We won’t accept any unwarranted lawsuits or demand for compensation,” he warned.

As the virus raged and spread across the world, there has been a growing chorus calling for China to pay damages to affected people and businesses.

Mr Zhang had another warning for the US, which has been stepping up provocations in recent months, plunging the bilateral relationship to new lows.

“If the US could respect China’s social system and development path, put into perspective China’s development and its strategic intentions and commit to interacting with China in a constructive way, this will help the two countries work together in a mutually beneficial way both in bilateral issues and on regional and global issues,” he said.

“However, if the US latches onto Cold War mentality, pursues a strategy of containment against China and undermines China’s core and major interests, it will only end up hurting others and eventually itself. China will never start trouble but will never flinch when trouble comes its way.

“We will resolutely defend our sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Some 5,000 delegates from around the country have gathered in Beijing for the annual parliamentary meetings, better known as Two Sessions, or lianghui.

Traditionally held in March, it was postponed this year because of the coronavirus outbreak and will be shortened from about 10 days to a week.

The country’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, began its session on Thursday, while nearly 3,000 lawmakers will meet to take stock of the government’s work over the past year, pass laws and approve budgets at the NPC meeting.

Among proposals that the legislators will discuss is a draft resolution for a controversial national security law aimed at curbing subversive or terrorist activities and foreign interference in Hong Kong.