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Missouri Attorney General Serves Chinese Communist Party, Wuhan Institute of Virology in COVID-19 Lawsuit

May 18, 2021, 13:26 PM by AG Schmitt
Today, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt provided an update on his Office’s lawsuit against the Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party.
The Attorney General’s Office today served the Chinese Communist Party, Wuhan Institute for Virology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences with the lawsuit that he filed to hold the Chinese authorities accountable for their role in the COVID-19 pandemic. The Attorney General’s Office is also calling on the State Department to waive consular fees in serving the People’s Republic of China and its subdivisions.
 
“Today, after working tirelessly to navigate the complexities of international law, the Attorney General’s Office effectuated service of process against the Chinese Communist Party, the Wuhan Institute for Virology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. I filed this suit to hold the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese authorities accountable for their role in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken lives, ruined businesses, destroyed economies, and more. Serving these entities is an important step in that process,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Additionally, we are asking for the State Department to waive its consular fees in serving the People’s Republic of China and its subdivisions named in the lawsuit. Despite China’s stonewalling, my Office remains determined to hold the Chinese authorities accountable for unleashing the COVID-19 pandemic.”
 
As required by law, the Attorney General’s Office first attempted to serve the Chinese government through The Hague Convention, which requires the participation of the Chinese foreign ministry. In February of 2021, the Chinese government filed a frivolous objection to service under Article XIII of the Hague Convention. The Attorney General’s Office then filed a motion for alternative service. On May 11, 2021, the federal district court granted the Attorney General’s motion for alternative service. The court ordered that the Attorney General’s Office can serve three defendants by email and can serve the People’s Republic of China and its subdivisions through diplomatic channels. Service through diplomatic channels is effected through the State Department’s Bureau for Consular Affairs.
 
Attorney General Schmitt’s letter to the President and the State Department, which was sent earlier today, can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2021-05-18---letter-from-attorney-general-eric-s-schmitt.pdf?sfvrsn=de37e53c_2. Attorney General Schmitt urges the State Department to waive the consular fees of $2,275 per defendant when it effects service on the foreign state and its subdivisions named in the lawsuit under 28 USC 1608(a)(4). Those entities are: the People’s Republic of China, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, the Ministry of Emergency Management of the People’s Republic of China, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Government of Hubei Province, and the People’s Government of Wuhan City.
 
In urging that the consular fees should be waived, the letter states, “Unlike private disputes among private litigants, our lawsuit is filed on behalf of the people of Missouri as a whole, and it serves the public interest. Moreover, all Americans have an overpowering interest in achieving truth and accountability regarding the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This lawsuit serves the interests of all Americans, not just Missourians. Waiving that expense for Missouri’s taxpayers would be a just and equitable gesture.”
 
Background on Timeline of Service
 
As noted previously, service of process on a foreign country is a complex process. Below is a background timeline of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office’s ongoing efforts in serving the defendants in this lawsuit.
 
April 21, 2020: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt files suit against the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, and other entities for their role in the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
May – August of 2020: In order to get the best deal for the taxpayers of Missouri, the Attorney General’s Office solicited competitive bids from multiple firms for investigation, translation, and service of the governmental entities through The Hague Convention.  The Attorney General’s Office selected a professional vendor through this competitive service.  The vendor engaged in investigation to identify service addresses, translation of service documents into simplified Chinese, and preparation of service packets, as required by the Hague Convention.
 
August 2020: The Attorney General’s Office, through its professional vendor specializing in international service, submitted Missouri’s service packets to China’s foreign ministry under The Hague Convention.
 
February 2021: After months of stonewalling, the Chinese government objected to service under Article 13 of The Hague Convention, shirking their responsibility in this lawsuit.
 
March 2021: The Attorney General’s Office filed a motion for alternative service.
 
May 11, 2021: The U.S. District Court approved the Attorney General’s motion for alternative service, and it authorized service by email on three defendants, and service by diplomatic channels on the People’s Republic of China and its subdivisions.
 
May 18, 2021: The Attorney General’s Office served the Chinese Communist Party, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences via email, and called on the State Department to aid in the service of the governmental entities.
 
A more detailed account of the service procedures can be found in the State’s motion for alternative service, on pages two, three and four: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/doc-19---plaintiff's-motion-to-authorize-alternative-methods-of-service-under-28-usc-section-1608-and-federal-rule-of-civil-procedure-4.pdf?sfvrsn=5099787e_2.
 
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