The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not ruled out the possibility that the United States was to blame for the spread of the new coronavirus in the Asian country.
Geng Shuang, the ministry spokesman, sidestepped questions on Friday about whether Beijing viewed Washington as responsible for the deadly virus outbreak in China, a day after another spokesman suggested the US army could have engineered it.
Speaking at a news conference in the Chinese capital, Geng refused to directly comment when asked whether his colleague Zhao Lijian’s comments were consistent with Beijing’s official stance on the virus.
“In fact, the international community, including people within the US, have different opinions about the origin of the virus,” Geng told reporters at the presser.
“As I have been saying for a few days, China has always seen this as a matter of science, and scientific and professional opinions must be heard.”
Geng went on to say, “You’re very interested to know if Zhao Lijian’s views represent the views of the Chinese government.”
“I believe that perhaps you would be better off first asking whether or not recent comments from a number of senior US officials attacking or smearing China represent the US government’s position.”
In a strongly-worded tweet, written in English, Zhao blasted the US on Thursday for what he called lack of transparency in official reports regarding the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
He suggested that the US military might have brought the new coronavirus to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the birthplace of the current global pandemic.
“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 wrote.
The Chinese government had been criticized by Western media and particularly by US officials for what was alleged to be a slow response to the outbreak and of not being sufficiently transparent.
Beijing has, however, been taking strict measures since the outbreak began, including locking down Wuhan, a city of roughly 11 million people, which appears to have paid off.
The COVID-19 disease, caused by the new coronavirus, emerged in the provincial capital of Hubei late last year and is currently affecting 131 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far infected over 137,000 people and killed more than 5,000 others.
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.