Source: Chinese Foreign Ministry by Hua Chunying
The Paper: US Secretary Pompeo and State Department Spokesperson Ortagus recently said in multiple interviews that the virus originated from Wuhan; China was aware of the epidemic last December but didn’t act fast enough; China’s data is not factual or accurate; the international community should hold China accountable, seek damages and conduct investigations. I wonder if you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: Indeed, Secretary Pompeo, State Department Spokesperson and others seemed to be busy taking interviews lately, where they continued unwarranted attacks against China on COVID-19, accusing China of not acting fast enough or providing accurate data, and calling for investigations to hold it accountable. We’ve repeatedly stated our position on these. However, since the US kept repeating these lies, we must strive to help the world see the truth through facts time and again.
They claimed China didn’t act fast enough. China is among the first countries hit by COVID-19. We have repeatedly shared the timeline of China’s response. On December 27, 2019, relevant Wuhan authorities received the first report of suspected cases. On December 30, Wuhan Municipal Health Committee issued an “urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause”. From January 3, 2020, China started to send timely updates to WHO, relevant countries including the US and regions. On January 7, China CDC identified the first novel coronavirus strain. On January 12, the NHC shared genetic sequencing information of the virus with WHO. On January 23, Wuhan entered lockdown. On April 8, the lockdown was lifted. To date, there have been no new local confirmed cases for 5 days in a row and no fatalities for 23 consecutive days.
Now let’s turn to the US. On January 3, it was officially notified by the Chinese side and started receiving daily updates. On January 25, it was the first to withdraw all personnel from its Consulate-General in Wuhan, and there was one confirmed case in the US. On February 2, it closed its border to all Chinese citizens and foreigners who had been to China in the past 14 days. There were 11 confirmed cases then according to official data from the US. On March 13, it declared a national state of emergency. At that point the number rose to 1,264. On March 19, confirmed cases passed 10,000. On March 27, the number surged to more than 100,000. On April 8, when the lockdown on Wuhan was lifted, the number of confirmed cases in the US was 400,000. Today, it’s more than 1.2 million, with more than 70,000 fatal cases. Who didn’t act fast enough? The facts are as plain as day. Just compare the numbers. It’s simple math.
They questioned the factuality of China’s numbers. People in their right mind will not assert blindly that other people are lying just because others’ numbers look better than their own. This is not children playing make-believe. The fight against the virus is a serious matter of life and death. Behind every number is a living human being, a family. China has been open, transparent and responsible in releasing information on the epidemic. The revision of data in Wuhan shows a sense of responsibility to history, to the people and to the lives lost to the virus. It can stand the test of history. We hope the US can also make sure that what they say and do and their data is responsible to the people and could stand the test of history.
They talked about accountability and compensations. As was mentioned just now, survey results from Singapore show the Chinese people giving their government the highest rating for its response to COVID-19. Heads of the UN, WHO and many countries as well as medical experts in disease control all spoke highly of China’s swift, strong and effective response which contributed to the global fight. I wonder what is the accountability a few Americans have in mind? Despite having unrivaled medical resources and technology, the US is registering the highest numbers of confirmed cases and fatal cases in the world. In spite of all this, some are still openly deflecting responsibility to China. Have they no shame? Don’t they owe the American people an apology? Disregarding facts and shifting blame to China only illustrates what it means to be scoundrels.
They keep calling for investigations. China has maintained close and good cooperation with WHO. It is the duty of WHO to establish a review committee according to IHR to assess a major infectious disease at an appropriate time in order to enhance global public health preparedness. China supports WHO DG in establishing a review committee according to IHR with the mandate of the WHA or the Executive Board to assess global response to COVID-19 in an open, transparent and inclusive manner at an appropriate time after the pandemic is over. The purpose is to summarize experiences and shortfalls in the global response and propose suggestions as to how to enhance WHO’s work, countries’ core public health capacity, and global preparedness in the face of major infectious diseases. China always supports WHO’s work and hopes the US could also give its support and cooperation.
Shenzhen TV: US Secretary of State Pompeo recently told media that China is the most dangerous adversary for the US and all Western countries, as China’s regime is “just different than we are”. Do you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: China always believes that different civilizations and systems in the world can coexist in harmony, learn from each other and achieve progress together. But for some American politicians, it’s getting harder to accept such simple fact. If we look at what happened recently, we can indeed find one major difference between the Chinese and US governments: the CPC and the Chinese government always put the life and safety of the people’ first, cherish every life, and do whatever it takes to safeguard people’s life and health. That’s why in this outbreak, the number of fatalities in China is far less than the US. If, as some American individuals said, that their regime is so good, values so advanced and strength so mighty, why don’t they have the courage to even acknowledge this basic fact?
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis facing all mankind, and all countries share the same destiny. No country can guarantee its absolute security in public health alone until all countries are safe. The international community therefore needs solidarity and cooperation more than ever. We believe that the common enemy we face now is the virus. China and the US are not enemies to each other, nor should we become enemies or rivals. We should join hands to fight the epidemics. We hope that US officials can focus on fighting the epidemic at home. We also stand ready to strengthen cooperation with the US so as to win the battle against virus at an early date. In the face of the sudden attack of the virus, we need to put aside all the differences in ideology and political system. What matters most is the life and safety of the people.
AFP: I’d like to ask if you have any comment on media reports that some athletes from various countries fell ill after last year’s military games in Wuhan with what is now believed to be coronavirus? Also, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian previously suggested that the US participants in the games could have brought the virus to China. Does the foreign ministry still think this is true?
Hua Chunying: To be honest, recently, there have been people like you who are obsessed with Mr. Zhao Lijian’s words. I remember very clearly that he used the word “might” because there was a lot of such coverage in the media and online. If you keep picking on him just for citing this word “might”, then how about the US President, Vice President, Secretary of State, the State Department spokesperson and some lawmakers, who falsely accused that the virus came from lab in Wuhan, saying the virus was man-made or leaked? Have you ever questioned them?
The position of the Chinese government is very clear. We have said repeatedly with patience that tracing the origin of the virus is a very complex issue that needs to be assessed by scientists and specialists based on facts and science. Nearly all of the world’s top scientists and experts in disease control and prevention have yet to reach a conclusion on the source of the virus, but the biggest consensus is that the virus comes from nature. We’ve seen a lot of these reports recently, and we talked about them the other day. For example, there was confirmed case in France back in December last year. The mayor of Belleville, New Jersey, says he may have contracted COVID-19 last November. The health department of Florida posted online the information that the state already had 171 infected cases back in January. There have been a lot of reports like this, which only proves that tracing the origin of the virus is a very complex issue.
We should leave it to scientists and professionals to investigate and prove the origin of the virus. Considering the reports of cases in the US and some other countries which are believed to be earlier than those in Wuhan, all countries concerned should work closely with the WHO in a scientific and down-to-earth manner so that scientists can get to the bottom of the puzzle as soon as possible. Viruses can appear at any time, anywhere. Only by relying on and advocating science, rather than cooking up conspiracy theories, can we figure out the problem and respond more effectively and quickly to major infectious diseases in the future.
CRI: US Secretary Pompeo said in multiple interviews recently that “We’ve seen evidence that it came from the lab”; perhaps it’s because Chinese researchers were not qualified and didn’t work the way they should have; China should give Westerners access to those labs. He also said there are many labs operated by the CPC and it’s not the first time such risk arose. I wonder if you have a comment?
Hua Chunying: In recent months the MFA regular press conference has basically become a platform to dispel the rumors spread by Mr. Pompeo.
Regarding the so-called leak of virus from the lab in Wuhan, what I have seen is that almost all leading scientists and experts in disease control in the world, including top expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, have openly rejected Mr. Pompeo’s comments. But he is sticking to his old lies. We have asked this question more than once: Where is the evidence he keeps talking about? Just show us if there’s any!
As to the Wuhan P4 laboratory, as I’ve said, it was born out of cooperation between the Chinese and French governments, that its design, construction and management all follow international standards, that its first group of researchers were trained at P4 labs in France and the US, and its facilities and equipment are tested annually by a third party agency accredited by the state. Committed to timely and openly sharing scientific and research information, the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), as one of the several dozens of P4 labs around the world, has been carrying out cooperation and exchanges with others. Last year, it received over 70 visits by people from all over the world. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance and prominent virus expert who has been cooperating with the WIV for 15 years, said in an April 26 interview that there is no virus in the Wuhan lab that could trigger the outbreak.
Since Mr. Pompeo cannot stop attacking China and spewing lies, then I am left with no options but going through some old stories on the US side. For the record, all these stories were reported by the US media. They are neither disinformation nor recrimination. I hope our media friends will keep this in mind and refrain from making random accusations.
According to open records we have access to, China has only two P4 labs, the highest biosafety level lab, while the US has 13 that are either in operation, under expansion or in planning, according to a February report by the Federation of American Scientists. The US also has 1495 P3 labs, not including many other labs it built in the territory of the former Soviet Union, like in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and in many other places around the world. One more fact you need to know: the US has been the only country that blocks the resumption of negotiation on a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention.
A USA TODAY Network investigation reveals that since 2003, hundreds of lab incidents have occurred in the US biological laboratories where humans had accidental contact with deadly pathogens. The person with direct contact may get infected, which will spread to people or animals in the surrounding community and cause an epidemic. According to a 2009 report by the US General Accounting Office, in the past decade, P3 labs in the US had 400 accidents. The biolabs in the US now pose the biggest safety risk to the US regulatory authority. The US sets up 16 labs in Ukraine. Large-scale measles once erupted in some places where these labs located. The latest example is that last July, the bio-chemical research base at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the largest research center for biochemical weapons in the US, was abruptly shut down by the US CDC, citing a failure of the Army laboratory to “implement and maintain containment procedures sufficient to contain select agents or toxins” . When reporting this story, USA Today said that this is a normal state and some risks might be brewing. There are also reports that soon after the closure, EVALI broke out in the surroundings. According to data released by the US CDC in late February, the flu season that begins in the winter of 2019 has infected at least 32 million people in the United States, including 18,000 deaths from flu-related illnesses. CDC Director Michael Redfield has publicly acknowledged that some of the deaths from influenza were actually caused by COVID-19. These are all public records in US media reports available online.
We also noted that there is growing skepticism in response to these doubts. Calls have been growing in the United States and internationally for the US government to disclose the reasons for the closure of the Fort Detrick biological base and to find out the relationship between the closure of the base and EVALI, the influenza season, and the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hasn’t the US always demanded an open and transparent investigation? China has always been open and transparent in releasing information on epidemic prevention and control. We support the WHO in carrying out relevant work in accordance with the international health regulations. I wonder if the US can be as open and transparent as China to open its biological base at Fort Detrick and its biological laboratories in the US and other parts of the world for international investigation? Will it open itself to WHO investigation on the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak and the US response? Will the US lead by example?
TBS: President Trump just mentioned yesterday that China either made a terrible mistake or probably it was incompetence. Do you have any comment for this?
Hua Chunying: This COVID-19 outbreak is an ambush on mankind by an unknown virus. China, among the first group of countries hit by the virus, took forceful and effective measures at the earliest time possible, and all bear witness to the outcomes China has achieved.
I just detailed the timeline of what China and the US respectively done in response to the epidemics. It is simple math. Who is making mistakes? Who has failed to respond? The facts are crystal clear. I hate to make that comparison, but you, my media friends, have pressed us to do so.