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China denies cover-up, rejects ‘politicization’ of coronavirus

People wearing face masks walk in a market in Wuhan, China, on May 22, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
June 08, 2020

China lambasted suggestions that it hid information about the coronavirus outbreak, saying in a newly published white paper that it has acted transparently and informed the world of developments in a timely manner.

“Some foreign politicians and media have presumed guilt for the origin of the virus, put labels on the virus and politicized the epidemic,” Xu Lin, head of State Council Information Office, said at a briefing in Beijing Sunday. “The fabricated assumptions — like the ‘China origins of the virus,’ ‘China concealed the virus’ and ‘it’s China’s responsibility’ — are utterly baseless, unreasonable and disrespectful of science.”

On February 28, 2020, two boys wearing facemasks to protect against coronavirus play together in a Beijing park. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

With almost 400,000 deaths globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a point of tension in China’s relationship with a number of countries, most notably America. President Donald Trump has repeatedly faulted China for having failed to contain the coronavirus when addressing the outbreak in the U.S., which now leads the world in both infections and deaths.

China has adamantly defended its actions. It’s also sent medical supplies and doctors to countries battling infections, with President Xi Jinping pledging to make any Chinese-developed vaccine a “global public good.” At the same time, Beijing has sought to cast doubt on the theory that the virus originated in China, with a foreign ministry official having promoted conspiracy theories that linked the outbreak to the U.S. military.

The white paper published Sunday by the State Council Information Office describes as a “calculated slur” accusations that China concealed information about the virus or that it didn’t disclose the actual number of deaths. It also says Beijing shared information in “clear and unambiguous terms” but that this was ignored by certain countries, which now seek to blame China for their own failures.

Tedros Adhanom, left, Director General of the World Health Organization, attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 28, 2020. (Naohiko Hatta/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

“While certain countries madly defame China with every conceivable means to shed their own responsibilities, China must firmly fight back against the shifting of blame,” Ma Zhaoxu, deputy foreign minister, said at the briefing.

Though neither the white paper nor any of the Chinese officials who spoke at the briefing mentioned the U.S. by name, the criticism levied Sunday did appear to address Washington’s actions.

Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have suggested a link between the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which runs a laboratory that studies dangerous pathogens in the city where the virus first emerged, and the outbreak. Pompeo said earlier this month that there was “enormous evidence” to trace the virus back to the laboratory.

China has dismissed the allegation as “pure fabrication” and characterized U.S. assertions as an election-year strategy to deflect attention from the U.S.’s poor handling of its own outbreak.

Meanwhile, the white paper pledges that China will continue to supply the international market with materials to fight the outbreak, including pharmaceutical goods, daily necessities and other supplies. The nation will continue to open its markets, expand imports and outbound investment, and contribute further to other countries’ fight against the virus and to a stable world economy.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ma also argued that China’s relationship with most countries has actually become “more stabilized” during the pandemic. “The relationship with our friends is closer and our circle of friends has expanded,” he said.


© 2020 Bloomberg News

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