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Hua Chunying: Mr. Pompeo says there is “enormous evidence”. Then show it

Source: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Hua Chunying

Wall Street Journal: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that he has seen “enormous evidence” that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan. How does China respond to these comments?

Hua Chunying: Mr. Pompeo says there is “enormous evidence”. Then show it. I have seen reports that the head of the WHO said the US has not presented any evidence so far. According to the latest reports, senior US officials have backtracked on what they call “evidence”.

The origin of virus is a complex and controversial issue, but there is a broad consensus in the international community that it is a very serious scientific issue that must be studied by scientists and medical experts on the basis of facts and science. At present, almost all the top scientists in the world, including famous scientists in the United States and experts in the field of disease control and prevention, believe that novel coronavirus originated from nature, not man-made, and there is no evidence of any so-called virus leakage from the laboratory.

I’ve seen a number of new reports of initial infections in recent days. For example, the US may have seen the first cases in last October, and France in December. WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said there could be earlier cases, and urged countries to investigate pneumonia cases of unknown origin in late 2019. At a regular press conference on May 5, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO’s emergency program said some 15,000 full genome sequences of the novel coronavirus available show the novel coronavirus is not man-made. A few days ago, Yuan Zhiming, Director of the National Biosafety Laboratory in Wuhan, also gave a detailed statement to questions concerning the origin of virus in an interview with Reuters.

Mr. Pompeo has repeatedly said that he has “evidence”, but he simply cannot present it. How could he bring it out? Because he didn’t have it!

The website of Politico previously exposed a 57-page memo the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent to electoral organizations, which encouraged “actively attacking China” as a response to the coronavirus crisis, as well as three approaches to attack China including attributing the spread of virus to China’s cover-up. The core is to attack China whenever they mention it. There have been so many spoilers in the screenplay of this US blame game and there is no point in continuing. A word of advice to those certain individuals in the US: Don’t be too immersed in and addicted to this play.

I have also seen reports that Mr. Pompeo told the media that China has infected the world with viruses before, and that its laboratory operations are not standard and this is not the first time the world has faced a virus threat because of the failure of Chinese laboratory. Will Mr. Pompeo care to explain which Chinese lab has failed at what and when and where that failure happened?

What the international community knows clearly is that: the US used germ weapons during the Korean War and Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. For nearly two decades, the US, on its own, has been blocking the resumption of negotiation on a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention. On August 2019, the US CDC abruptly order the closure of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick. The US has set up many laboratories in the territory of the former Soviet Union but clammed up about what it’s doing in these labs and how safe they are.

We note that the international community calls for the US to accept investigation and address these concerns. We hope that the US will act responsibly and take concrete actions to reassure the international community. On the other hand, they should stop scapegoating China, because the responsibility is so heavy and it’s impossible to shift blame.

Reuters: President Trump said last Friday that he may consider using tariffs to punish China for spreading the virus. Do you have a comment?

Hua Chunying: Speaking of tariffs, I think facts have proven that it’s an unwieldy weapon which is likely to hurt oneself as it wounds others. A trade war doesn’t serve anyone’s interests. In particular, under current circumstances, all parties need to work together instead of coercing others with the big stick of tariffs.

On the claim that China spread the virus, we need to get the facts straight. China has repeatedly shared the timeline of its response. On December 27, 2019, Dr. Zhang Jixian reported the first three suspected cases. On December 30, Wuhan Municipal Health Committee issued an “urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause”. On December 31, China informed WHO China of pneumonia cases of unknown cause. On January 3, 2020, China started to send timely updates to WHO and other countries, including the US. On January 23, China temporarily closed exit channels in Wuhan, sending a strong warning signal to the world. Back then there was only a total of 9 confirmed cases outside China, of which just one was in the US. On January 31, three major American airlines suspended direct flights between the US and China. On February 2, the US closed borders to all Chinese citizens and foreign nationals with travel history to China in the past 14 days. By then there was only about 10 confirmed cases reported in the US.

We noticed that on May 1, the US CDC released on its website a report by its Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat and the CDC COVID-19 Response Team. The report clearly states that continued travel-associated importations, not from China, large gatherings and cryptic transmission resulting from limited testing and asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread contributed to accelerated spread during February–March 2020. These are plain facts.

The facts have proven that it is absurd to accuse China of spreading the virus. We may compare China’s response with that in the US. China notified the US of the epidemic situation on January 3, while the US announced a national state of emergency on March 13, which means it took the US government 70 days. Even if we start counting from February 2 when the US closed borders to all Chinese citizens and foreign nationals with travel history to China in the past 14 days, it still took them as long as 40 days to respond.

China contained the spread of the virus in just over two months. On April 8, when the lockdown on Wuhan was lifted, the number of confirmed cases in the US had surged to nearly 400,000. Today it’s more than 1.2 million. I wonder what the US was doing in the past months? Why would it allow things to end up like this? Is that what a responsible government does for its people?

We advise the US to stop trying to deflect attention and shift the blame onto China. It should put its own house in order first, contain the epidemic at home and do its utmost to save lives and keep its people healthy. Lives matter more than political gains. We hope the US government will manage its own affairs properly and give the America people a clear explanation.

Beijing Daily: On April 30, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in the US issued a press release saying that the Intelligence Community concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified. On May 4 CNN reported that according to two Western officials, intelligence shared among Five Eyes nations indicates it is “highly unlikely” that the coronavirus outbreak was spread as a result of an accident in a laboratory On the same day, National Geographic published an interview with Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, who said the scientific evidence is very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated. Do you have any comment?

Hua Chunying: I also noted relevant reports. Indeed, there has been a lot of reports and speculations about the origin of virus in the United States recently. As I said just now, some individuals in the US have been constantly accusing China out of their own domestic political interests and considerations, but their statements are often inconsistent and unfounded, thus cannot stand up to scrutiny. What they said have too often been denounced by scientists or medical and disease control specialists. Those in the US who are scapegoating China to shift blame should do soul-searching and learn their lessons.

As we repeatedly stressed, the origin of the virus is a complex scientific issue that should be answered by scientists and experts through rigorous and meticulous scientific research, one that should not be decided by politicians. We firmly oppose politicizing and stigmatizing the issue of the origin of the virus, and once again call on all people to respect science and stay away from conspiracy theories.