While the rest of the world continues with frantic efforts to stop the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic that has so far claimed almost 380,000 lives, some Western politicians and media outlets have instead been busy unleashing a campaign of disinformation against China. Hoping to pin the blame for the origin of COVID-19 and the alleged poor handling of the outbreak at the doorsteps of Chinese authorities.
In a 24-point fact check strongly-worded statement, the official Chinese Xinhua News Agency on May 9, 2020 issued a rebuttal to the insinuations.
It all began gradually, and seemed to have petered off after some time. But of late, it resumed and reached unprecedented crescendo. Some Western politicians and media – especially American – have stepped up their blame campaign, attributing the woes of the new Coronavirus or COVID-19 to China. In summary, China is accused of “starting” the virus and later concealing information on the gravity of the situation. Reason why, according to them, the Coronavirus pandemic has today left a trail of destruction across the globe with untold human and economic cost.
In a reality crosscheck of the US allegations against China published by the official Xinhua News Agency on May 9, 2020, Beijing in 24 points, backed by abundant evidence, debunks the most peddled accusations. “Recently, some US politicians and media outlets have been fabricating preposterous allegations and lies of one kind or another in order to shift the blame to China for their inadequate response to COVID-19,” said Xinhua in the introduction to the strongly-worded statement.
“Lies evaporate in the light of truth. It is time to let facts speak for themselves. In future, we will continue to reveal the truth to the world whenever new lies appear,” the statement promised. Concerning the description of COVID-19 as a “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus,” the publication recalls that the World Health Organisation, WHO has certain standards: “According to these guidelines, the naming of a disease should avoid geographic locations, people’s names, class of animal or food, cultural, population, industry or occupational references …” the declaration noted.
One of the consequences of this has been reports by The New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other mainstream media in the West that the wrongful connection of Asian communities with COVID-19 stoked serious xenophobia, and frequent occurrences of racist discrimination and harassment against these communities in the US.
On the allegation that the city of Wuhan is the origin of the virus, it must be noted that being the first to report the virus does not mean Wuhan is its origin, the news agency pointed out. For now, the origin of the new Coronavirus is still not identified, Xinhua warned. “Source tracing is a serious scientific matter, which should be based on science and studied by scientists and medical experts,” it said.
Concerning the accusation that the virus was constructed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, all available evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is natural in origin, not man-made. On 30 January 2020, the prestigious UK medical journal, The Lancet, published an article on COVID-19 conducted by research teams, including members from China Centre for Disease Control, CDC. It said the virus was a new human-infecting Coronavirus, based on the phylogenetic analysis of the ten 2019-nCoV genome sequences from nine confirmed patients from Wuhan. Later on 19 February 2020, The Lancet published a joint statement by 27 leading medical experts from eight countries, indicating that scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of SARS-CoV-2, and overwhelmingly concluded that this Coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.
Xinhua said contrary to the allegation that COVID-19 was caused by an accidental leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory (Wuhan P4 Laboratory) in the WIV, is a government cooperation programme between China and France. “The institute does not have the capability to design or synthesize a new Coronavirus, and there is no evidence of pathogen leaks or staff infections in the Institute,” the statement underscored. “… No one in the WIV has so far been infected by COVID-19,” it stressed.
China is also blamed for allowing many of its nationals to fly to Milan, New York and other places, thereby spreading the virus to the rest of the world. But the reality is that China took the most stringent measures within the shortest possible time, which have largely kept the virus within Wuhan. Wuhan was put under temporary lockdown as from 23 January 2020, meaning that there were no outbound commercial flights or train services from 24 January 2020 through 8 April 2020. So it was impossible for Wuhan residents to travel overseas during this period of time, Xinhua argued.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to research by the Northeastern University showing that strains of the novel Coronavirus that entered his state were not from China. The New York Times also cited US researchers saying most New York Coronavirus cases did not come from Asia.
That Chinese people contracted the novel Coronavirus while eating bats is not true. The fact is that bats are part of Chinese diet. “The Internet video clip in which a Chinese female tour guide drinks bat soup was part of a travel promotion show filmed by her team on a small Pacific island in 2016 and was posted online that year. Bat soup was a local specialty on the island,” the release said. Moreover, the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market, where cluster cases were identified in the early days of the epidemic, does not sell bats.
On concerns that China is reopening wildlife markets, the truth is that there are no so-called “wildlife wet markets” in China. Legislation has been passed banning all illegal hunting and trade in wild animals.
Having been blamed for initial cover-up and delaying the release of information, which resulted in the spread of the virus, Xinhua retorted by explaining that it was an unexpected attack by an unknown virus against human beings. “It takes time to study and understand it. China has provided timely information to the world in an open, transparent and responsible manner,” it stressed.
On 31 December 2019, China informed the WHO China Country Office of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan. And as from 3 January 2020, China began sending regular, timely updates about the novel Coronavirus to WHO, other countries – including the United States – and China’s Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions. Between 3 January and 3 February 2020, China updated the US 30 times on the epidemic situation and its response measures, Xinhua argued.
China denies arresting late Dr. Li Wenliang, the alleged whistle-blower of the outbreak, saying he was not the one who broke the news. China has established strict approval procedures and rules for reporting, verification and release of information on an infectious disease. Dr. Zhang Jixian, a respiratory doctor, was the first to report COVID-19 cases on 27 December 2020. Three days after, Dr Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist, sent a message to his alumni WeChat group warning them of “seven confirmed SARS cases.” Following his death on 7 February 2020, Dr. Li Wenliang was on 5 March 2020 named a “National Model Healthcare Worker in Fighting COVID-19.” On 2 April 2020, Dr Li was also honored as a martyr.
Similarly, China was not too late in disclosing information about human-to-human transmission. And the US and the rest of the world cannot now claim that they did not gain enough knowledge about how contagious and deadly the virus was. And as a result, failed to respond quickly enough. This is buttressed by the fact that messages from China and the World Health Organization have been timely and strong. The US knew about the danger of the virus all along, the statement stressed.
That China’s official numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities are too low to be true, and the real figures are at least 50 times more, Xinhua said the figures can well stand the test of history. For example, the lifting of the 76-day lockdown of Wuhan came after a continuous drop in infections. “China’s relatively low number of confirmed cases and fatalities is attributable to the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures taken promptly by the Chinese government such as completely shutting down transportation out of Wuhan,” Xinhua explained.
Revising the number of confirmed cases and fatalities in Wuhan later was not a sign of cover-up of the large number of cases in the early days of COVID-19, but rather standard international practice. As a matter of fact, it proves that China is open, transparent and responsible, Xinhua said.
On 17 April 2020, and in accordance with the national law on Death Information Registration, Wuhan issued a notification, revising upwards the number of confirmed cases by 325 to a total of 50,333; and fatal cases by 1,290 to a total of 3,869. This was because information on some fatal cases was incomplete, while some cases were reported repeatedly or inaccurately.
China has not been spreading disinformation about COVID-19. “The Chinese government, in an open, transparent and responsible manner, has shared with the world updates on the disease and its response experience, and has pursued international cooperation,” the statement said.
Instead of heaping the blame on the Chinese political system as the root cause of the problem, the fact remains that the virus does not distinguish between ideology and social system. The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government played a decisive and critical role in mobilising 1.4 billion people on a vast land of 9.6 million square kilometers to quickly checkmate COVID-19.
For example, China pooled massive human and material resources to build the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital in 10 days, and the 1,600-bed Leishenshan Hospital in 15 days. At an average speed of building one hospital per day and a half, a total of 16 mobile hospitals were put in place to accommodate over 13,000 patients. As part of the COVID-19 response in Wuhan, over 44,500 primary-level Communist Party officials were sent to 13,800 residential communities to build up a strong line of defence against the Coronavirus pandemic, Xinhua disclosed.
On the other hand, China did not expel US journalists to hide the truth about COVID-19. The move was a response to the US long-term oppression of Chinese media in the US, especially after it deported 60 Chinese journalists. “China always welcomes interviews and reporting conducted by foreign media and journalists in the country in accordance with laws and regulations… What we oppose is ideological bias against China, fake news fabricated under the pretext of freedom of press, and acts that violate the ethics of journalism,” the release said.
China denies controlling and bribing the World Health Organisation, WHO. Rather, it collaborates and is so supportive of the organisation’s work. WHO is a specialised UN agency with 194 member states and is responsible for public health security. Some 11 members on its 21-strong headquarters leadership team are from the US, the EU, Canada and Australia, and only one is from China. These officials are all trained or practising doctors, epidemiologists, rescue workers and public health experts. This is why the recent US decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organisation was decried by the international community.
The other falsehood is that Taiwan warned WHO about human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 since 31 December 2019, but it was not taken seriously. The truth is that what the Taiwan region of China did was asking for more information from the organisation after the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the disease.
China has blocked Taiwan’s bid to join WHO because as part of China, Taiwan has no right to join WHO. Only UN Member States are eligible to join WHO, a specialised UN agency composed of sovereign states. Nevertheless, the technical cooperation channel between Taiwan and WHO is unimpeded by Beijing’s decision.
Contrary to Western insinuations, there is no legal basis for holding China accountable and making it pay for COVID-19 damages, Xinhua argued. “Some US politicians are trying to shift the blame out of domestic political agenda by insisting that China is responsible for the global spread of COVID-19. And that there must be investigations and lawsuits against China. But the fact is that COVID-19 is a natural, not man-made, disaster. China, like other countries, is also victim, not the culprit,” it noted.
A pandemic is a global public health emergency and there is no such a thing as “state responsibility” of the first country to report cases. HIV/AIDS was first detected in the US in the 1980s and has since spread to the whole world, but the international community has never demanded that the US take responsibility or pay reparations, the statement pointed out.
The Chinese government and people have provided many shipments of much-needed medical supplies to over 150 countries and international organisations, and these efforts are still ongoing. China has also leveraged its strong production capacity and promptly opened up its medical supplies market and export channels. Thus, the allegation that China has increased the screening of medical exports and restricted exports of supplies, especially ventilators, and causing a shortage of supplies in the US, is totally baseless, the statement by Xinhua said.
Neither is China’s COVID-19 assistance to other countries intended to serve its political and propaganda purposes. Rather, it is a return of their kindness in helping China with COVID-19 response and also a concrete step to put into action the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, Xinhua continued.
China follows the principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Therefore, accusing her of interfering in the US election and trying every means to stop President Trump from being re-elected is fallacious. If anything, it is some US politicians that capitalize on China-bashing as their election tactics, the Chinese news agency underscored.
By requiring exporters of masks, testing kits and ventilators to submit a statement upon customs declaration, China is not banning exports of supplies to fight COVID-19. The purpose of this requirement is for better quality control. Strict quality control is of vital importance in the production and supply of anti-epidemic items. Given that the lives of people in affected countries and regions are at stake, it explained.
That China’s Guangdong Province took discriminatory measures against Africans there, it should be made clear that enhanced testing and control measures taken by China are for both its citizens and all foreign nationals. Their purpose is to protect public health and people’s wellbeing.
“However, a few isolated incidents that occurred in this process due to miscommunication or misunderstanding have been timely and properly handled through close communication between the relevant Chinese authorities and diplomatic officials of the African countries concerned,” the Xinhua statement clarified.