China re­buts al­le­ga­tions of mis­han­dling virus

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - WORLD -

BEI­JING — China has is­sued a lengthy re­but­tal of what it said were 24 “pre­pos­ter­ous al­le­ga­tions” by some lead­ing U.S. politi­cians over its han­dling of the new coro­n­avirus out­break.

The Chi­nese for­eign min­istry has ded­i­cated most of its press brief­ings over the past week to re­ject­ing ac­cu­sa­tions by U.S. politi­cians, es­pe­cially Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, that China had with­held in­for­ma­tion about the new coro­n­avirus and that it had orig­i­nated in a lab­o­ra­tory in the city of Wuhan.

A 30-page, 11,000-word ar­ti­cle posted on the min­istry web­site on Satur­day night re­peated and ex­panded on the refu­ta­tions made dur­ing the press brief­ings, and be­gan by in­vok­ing Abra­ham Lin­coln, the 19th-cen­tury U.S. pres­i­dent.

“As Lin­coln said, you can fool some of the peo­ple all the time and fool all the peo­ple some of the time, but you can­not fool all the peo­ple all the time,” it said in the pro­logue.

The ar­ti­cle also cited me­dia re­ports that said Amer­i­cans had been in­fected with the virus be­fore the first case was con­firmed in Wuhan. There is no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that is the case.

Keen to quash U.S. sug­ges­tions that the virus was de­lib­er­ately cre­ated or some­how leaked from the Wuhan In­sti­tute of Virol­ogy, the ar­ti­cle said that all ev­i­dence shows the virus is not man-made and that the in­sti­tute is not ca­pa­ble of syn­the­siz­ing a new coro­n­avirus.

‘TIMELY’ WARN­INGS

The ar­ti­cle also pro­vided a time­line of how China had pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in a “timely”, “open and trans­par­ent” man­ner to re­buke U.S. sug­ges­tions that it had been slow to sound the alarm.

De­spite China's re­peated as­sur­ances, con­cerns about the time­li­ness of its in­for­ma­tion have per­sisted in some quar­ters.

A re­port by Der Spiegel mag­a­zine last Fri­day cited Ger­many's BND spy agency as say­ing that China's ini­tial at­tempt to hold back in­for­ma­tion had cost the world four to six weeks that could have been used to fight the virus.

The ar­ti­cle re­jected West­ern crit­i­cism of Bei­jing's han­dling of the case of Li Wen­liang, a 34-year-old doc­tor who had tried to raise the alarm over the out­break of the new virus in Wuhan.

His death from COVID-19, the res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease caused by the virus, prompted an out­pour­ing of rage and grief across China.

It min­istry ar­ti­cle said li was not a “whis­tle-blower” and he was never ar­rested, con­trary to many West­ern re­ports.

How­ever, the ar­ti­cle did not men­tion that Li was rep­ri­manded by the po­lice for “spread­ing ru­mours”. Though Li was later named among “mar­tyrs” mourned by China, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his case also drew crit­i­cism on­line af­ter it merely sug­gested the rep­ri­mand against him be with­drawn.

Re­ject­ing sug­ges­tions by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Pom­peo that the new coro­n­avirus should be called the “Chi­nese virus” or “Wuhan virus”, the ar­ti­cle cited doc­u­ments from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion to say the name of a virus should not be coun­try-spe­cific.

REUTERS

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Zhao Li­jian at­tends a news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing, China April 8, 2020.

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