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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (center) filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government, the Communist Party of China and others, alleging that the hiding of information and other actions at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak led to loss of life and significant economic damage in Missouri.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP


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Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (center) filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government, the Communist Party of China and others, alleging that the hiding of information and other actions at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak led to loss of life and significant economic damage in Missouri.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The state of Missouri is suing China for that country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s the first such lawsuit brought by a state, and relies on an unusual interpretation of federal law.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, blames China for letting the coronavirus spread. So he’s suing China, three government ministries, two local governments, two laboratories and the Communist Party in U.S. District Court. They all “engaged in misrepresentations, concealment, and retaliation to conceal the gravity and seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak from the rest of the world,” according to Schmitt.

“There’s been untold suffering across the globe, including here in Missouri, and we want to hold them accountable for that,” Schmitt says.

China, however, is protected by sovereign immunity, and Missouri’s got no standing to sue it, even in American courts.

Schmitt says there’s an exception for commercial activity, and he alleges that labs and hospitals are commercial ventures. He’s also counting the Communist Party as a non-state actor, which he says fortifies his legal argument.

Other Republicans are also moving to hold China — not U.S. officials — accountable for American coronavirus deaths and economic damage. Last week, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation to strip China of its sovereign immunity.

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