March 16, 2020 | Eva Fu
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Condemns Beijing’s Coronavirus Disinformation in Call With Top Chinese Diplomat
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised “strong U.S. objections” to Beijing over the Chinese regime’s efforts to shift the blame for the coronavirus pandemic, days after a top Chinese official promoted a conspiracy theory about the virus’ origin.
In a March 16 phone call with China’s top foreign affairs official, Yang Jiechi, Pompeo stressed “this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to fight this common threat,” a State Department statement said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has been one of the highest Chinese officials pushing the unfounded allegation that the virus originated in the United States and was later introduced to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the outbreak epicenter.
“When did patient zero begin in [sic] US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals?” Zhao, known for his often-confrontational social media posts, wrote in both Chinese and English last week on Twitter, a platform that is banned in China.
“It might be [sic] US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe [sic] us an explanation,” he continued.
Zhao’s assertions prompted a U.S. state department official to summon the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai on Friday.
“The US side noted how Beijing’s storyline on what has become a global pandemic has been shifting away from the Wuhan Huanan market since mid-January, indicating that Beijing is trying to avoid responsibility for the outbreak,” a state department spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email on Saturday.
Chinese officials initially linked the outbreak to a suburban seafood market, where many of the initial cases were linked to, although the government has recently sought to deflect the virus’ Chinese ties.
U.S. national security advisor Robert O’Brien, during a speech at Washington-based think tank Heritage Foundation on March 11, said the regime had initially attempted to censor doctors and whistleblowers who tried to speak about the outbreak, “so that word of this virus could not get out.”
“It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” O’Brien said.
In response to US concerns over the regime’s lack of transparency and its efforts to redirect blame over the outbreak, Beijing has accused US officials of “smearing” China.
Yang, in the call with Pompeo, told his U.S. counterpart that “[s]ome U.S. politicians have been consistently smearing China’s outbreak control efforts … which has brought strong indignation from the Chinese people,” according to Chinese state media.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, in a March 13 press conference, insisted that the source of the virus is “a matter of science.” He also accused “certain high-level U.S. officials” of making “unfounded and irresponsible comments” to “smear and attack China.”
Pompeo also recently hit back at the regime’s claims that the virus may not have come from China. Calling it a Wuhan virus, the secretary said “we have pretty high confidence that we know where this began.” He also noted that the Chinese regime had been slow in sharing information on the outbreak with the world.
Chinese state-run outlet Xinhua has branded such remarks from the United States as “ill-intended political abuse.”
“Ever since the outbreak, some U.S. politicians have been busy with their frivolous political theatrics,” it said in a March 16 commentary.
Chinese affairs analyst Tang Yu said that Beijing’s disinformation campaign serves to direct public anger in China away from the government.
He said that during the early stages of the outbreak, China refused help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which repeatedly offered to send a team of top health experts to China to help combat the outbreak. Eventually, only three of the 13 recommended U.S. experts made their way to China.
“If [the virus] did not originate in China, why do you need to be so secretive?” he said.
“The CCP’s lowly act to shift the crisis only makes its thuggish nature ever more obvious to the international society.”