China talks science but floats conspiracy theory on coronavirus origin
Late on Thursday night, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had tweeted to his large number of followers that the US military might be behind the covid-19 epidemic.Updated: Mar 14, 2020 06:58 IST
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Friday refueled his allegation that the novel coronavirus has US military origins by citing a story from a website known to promote conspiracy theories to bolster his claim.
Late on Thursday night, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had tweeted to his large number of followers that the US military might be behind the covid-19 epidemic, and China, where it was first detected last year, wasn’t the origin of the virus.
The covid-19 pandemic has gone to kill over 4000 and infect more than 1.32 lakh globally.
“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation,” Zhao had tweeted in English and Chinese.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
Zhao did not offer any evidence but referred to statement by a top US health official that a few flu-related deaths in the US that occurred earlier could have been caused by the coronavirus.
1/2 CDC Director Robert Redfield admitted some Americans who seemingly died from influenza were tested positive for novel #coronavirus in the posthumous diagnosis, during the House Oversight Committee Wednesday. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
On Friday, he doubled down on his claim by referring to a similar story from the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalisation, which says it’s an independent think-tank but is often called out for peddling outlandish theories including on 9/11.
Sharing a link from the website, Zhao tweeted on Friday that “…this article is very much important to each and every one of us. Please read and retweet it. covid-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US.”
It led to a bit of a firestorm on Twitter with thousands sharing Zhao’s tweets and many trashing it, saying China was on the aggressive to help it cover up the fact had officials had covered-up information on the covid-19 in December and for nearly three weeks in January.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP), in fact, reported on Friday, citing government documents that the first case of the infection was detected at the epicentre Wuhan in November.
The SCMP report said Chinese health authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus last year.
They were put under medical surveillance, and the earliest case was November 17 – weeks before authorities announced the emergence of the new virus, and then finally put in place containment measures.
At the regular foreign ministry press conference, Zhao’s colleague, spokesperson
Geng Shuang somewhat sidestepped questions on whether Beijing blames the US for the coronavirus.
“The international community including the US has different opinions about the origin of the virus,” said Geng.
“The origin of the virus is a scientific matter and as such scientific views should be listened to,” said Geng.