AG Fitch says the state is waiting on China’s response to COVID-19 lawsuit

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, right, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday,...
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, right, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)(Rogelio V. Solis | AP)
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 4:05 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said the state is still waiting for the People’s Republic of China to respond to its lawsuit, more than a year after the communist country was first summoned.

“We are in the process of serving process, which is quite an ordeal in itself,” Fitch said. “We’re waiting on China’s response right now.”

In May 2020, Mississippi filed suit against the nation of more than a billion people for damages related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five months later, the state had not served process and was in danger of having the suit dismissed without prejudice. In November, a federal judge granted the state an additional 180 days to serve process.

A month later, in December 2020, summonses were issued to the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party 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, the people’s governments of the Hubei Province and city of Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

On June 10, 2021, the summonses were returned unexecuted. The following day, the summonses were reissued.

A second order granting Mississippi an additional 180 days to process was granted on April 30, 2021, according to court records.

At the time, Fitch’s office said the Chinese government had set up several roadblocks to prevent the state from serving the paperwork, and that it had rejected the summonses through the Hague Service Convention, which allows for service to be delivered by mail.

According to the Hague’s website, China opposes Article 10 of the convention, which allows service to be sent directly by mail.

The website goes on to state that service must be received by the Ministry of Justice of China, which then delivers the service to the person or entity.

The process can take up to four to six months depending on the recipient’s location, and there is no way to speed up the process, according to Hague documents.

However, Fitch says several measures are making their way through Congress that could make it easier for the state to issue the paperwork.

Those difficulties aside, though, the attorney general vows to fight on. “We’re going to keep moving forward, because, again, watch all the things that have been coming out,” she said. “More and more evidence that we get continues to prove our case.”

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