The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic — and it knows it. That’s why Beijing has gone on a propaganda offensive to try to deflect blame anywhere it can, including right here at the United States.

It is time for an international investigation into Beijing’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus. And it is time for Beijing to pay for the tens of thousands of lives stolen and billions of dollars lost as a result of its lies.

The Chinese Communist Party has done everything it can to hide the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Party officials interrogated and punished Chinese doctors who tried to warn others as the virus began to spread. They ordered laboratories to stop testing for the virus and destroy their samples when it became clear that an outbreak was under way. They even sat on evidence showing the virus could be transmitted between humans. By the time they shared that information, the virus had already spread to other nations.

The party’s decisions turned a local disease outbreak into a global pandemic. Rather than confront the coronavirus with the help of others — including American experts, whom it denied entry to in January — it kept its citizens and the world in the dark. It let the virus slip over its borders, and it stole precious weeks from the United States and others who could have used that time to ready our national defenses.

Now the Chinese government is scared. It says that it handled the coronavirus outbreak transparently and effectively. But it becomes clearer by the day that the opposite is true. Beijing wants the world to trust it and grow dependent on it, so that it can control us. But the world won’t easily do that if it knows that Beijing is responsible for this pandemic.

So the Chinese government is trying to spin the coronavirus. Chinese officials are arguing that the virus didn’t come from Wuhan, and that it came from the United States or Italy, instead. They are saying that China “bought time” for the world to prepare for coronavirus, and that it is the United States and others who squandered that time.

These are outrageous lies.

It is time to hold Beijing accountable for the suffering it has caused.

The first step to holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable is an international investigation. That is why I have introduced a Senate resolution calling on the United States and other nations to investigate how Beijing’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak contributed to this pandemic.

We need to know exactly what the party knew, when it knew it, and how the party’s decisions to try to hide the virus allowed it to spread and kept the United States and other nations from protecting ourselves sooner. I’m proud to have  U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., lead this effort in the House.

We do not need the Communist Party to cooperate for this investigation to be effective. Either way, the truth will come out. If the party does cooperate, then the investigation will show exactly how its lies led to the pandemic. If it doesn’t, then its actions will speak for themselves.

If Beijing handled this crisis as transparently as it says it did, then it should have nothing to hide. If it refuses to cooperate, then the world will know that it does have something to hide — namely, the fact that it is responsible for this pandemic.

The next step to holding Beijing accountable is to force it to pay for the lives and livelihoods that it has destroyed. My resolution calls on the international community to seek justice together by quantifying the harm caused by the party’s mishandling of this disease and designing a way to secure payment from Beijing to compensate for that harm.

The Chinese Communist Party cannot make families whole again or easily replace jobs lost to this pandemic. But the party can ease the pain that it has caused. With an international investigation to make its guilt clear to the world, that is exactly what it will do.

Republican Josh Hawley represents Missouri in the United States Senate. He was formerly the state’s attorney general. Go to hawley.senate.gov/coronavirus for coronavirus resources.

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