Chang rips LaFave bill to make Chinese govt. pay for COVID-19 

Buses drive across a bridge on February 5, 2020 in Macau, China. | Anthony Kwan/Getty Images
Updated, 2:08 p.m. 7/27/20

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) is beside herself.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Chang told the Advance this weekend about legislation from state Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) to hold the Chinese government responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Sen. Stephanie Chang speaks at the 31st Annual Crime Victims’ Vigil, April 17, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

HB 6025 directs the Michigan Department of Treasury to determine the fiscal impact of the pandemic and send an invoice to the communist government of China. LaFave said the total fiscal impact would be calculated by adding Michigan’s increase in unanticipated expenditures and decrease in anticipated revenue.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Reps. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis), Steve Marino (R-Harrison Twp.), Matt Maddock (R-Milford), Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock), Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair), Brian Elder (D-Bay City), Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Twp.) and Ronnie Peterson (D-Ypsilanti).*

“We see [President Donald] Trump doing this, too, constantly talking about China,” said Chang, the first Asian woman elected to the Michigan Legislature and founder of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Caucus. She is of Tawainese descent. 

“I understand that obviously there are things their government could have done better, but I think that why not Italy, why not European countries,” Chang said, noting nations with early outbreaks. “They also led to the spread of COVID-19 and its spread to the United States of America. So clearly, there is a racial element to it.”

LaFave said he is going directly after the Chinese government.

State Rep. Beau LaFave at the open carry rally at the Michigan Capitol, Sept. 10, 2019 | Claire Moore

“China knew a novel infectious disease was spreading inside Wuhan Province, lied to the World Health Organization and claimed it did not spread from person to person,” LaFave said. “It then tried to cover its tracks by throwing out journalists attempting to sound the alarm bells to the rest of the world. Despite its own regional travel ban, it allowed infected people to fly overseas into Detroit International Airport and hubs across the world uninhibited.”

Trump instituted a travel ban on Jan. 31 for those who had traveled to mainland China, but the Associated Press reports thousands of those travelers came into the United States anyway. China banned foreign nationals from entry starting on March 28. 

Chang noted that the Trump administration deserves scrutiny for its slow response to the pandemic, in which almost 150,000 Americans have died and more than 4 million have been sickened. Hospitals across the country, including Michigan, faced shortages for COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and masks, as the Trump administration has forced states to compete against each other. 

Michigan leaders alarmed about racism toward Asian Americans amid COVID-19 crisis

“If we’re going to talk about the cost of COVID, and who is to blame, I think that our own federal government has been a lot of failures when it comes to addressing COVID,” Chang said. “It just seems that there clearly is racial element to it.”

LaFave, however, appears resolute.

“Evil is the Chinese government’s currency of choice, and it’s time to make them pay,” he said.

Correction: Rep. Ronnie Peterson is a Democrat. His party affiliation was incorrect.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.