Four Republican senators have called on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to stop spreading disinformation about the origins of the coronavirus outbreak and join the international community to combat the global pandemic.
“The false information being spread by CCP officials, as well as medical professionals linked to the CCP and state-controlled media outlets, is irresponsible and dangerous to global public health,” Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said a March 16 joint statement.
Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian promoted the conspiracy theory that the virus originated in the United States and was brought by the U.S. Army to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first infection cases emerged.
“When did patient zero begin in [sic] US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals?” Zhao wrote in a series of tweets, adding that the United States “owe [sic] us an explanation.” The post was shared by a number of Chinese embassy accounts, including those in Chad, Pakistan, and Cameroon.
The senators said that reliable information, whether from the U.S. government, health experts, or other channels, is crucial to protect the public from the virus threat.
“Citizens—not just in the United States, but around the world—deserve clear and accurate information as we face this pandemic together,” they said.
In another one of Zhao’s tweets, also promoted by other Chinese ambassadors, he asked his followers to “read and retweet” an article, titled “China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?” found on the Global Research website.
While Zhao said the article is “very important to each and every one of us,” fact-checkers have flagged Global Research as a conspiracy theory website.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a call with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi over the “outlandish rumors” from the Chinese regime. On March 13, the State Department also summoned the Chinese ambassador to the United States over Zhao’s tweet.
Chinese authorities initially pointed to a live animal and seafood market in Wuhan as a likely origin of the outbreak. Over the past few weeks, however, Chinese officials and state media have been trying to cast the impression that the virus didn’t originate from China.
Such shifting of the Chinese narrative is a sign that “Beijing is trying to avoid responsibility for the outbreak,” a state department spokesperson previously said.
Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease expert from Shanghai, also disagreed with the idea that the virus was imported from outside of China.
If that’s the case, “patients would have emerged in several Chinese cities around the same time,” rather than first appearing in Wuhan, Zhang told state-run China Daily in a February interview. Those comments were later removed from the interview.
The U.S. senators also noted that the Chinese regime silenced doctors and journalists during the onset of the outbreak to cover up the gravity of the situation, and that it “took multiple weeks before the World Health Organization was allowed to enter China.”
“These missteps contributed to the serious situation that the entire globe faces today,” they said.
“The CCP’s disinformation shows that the party will always prioritize its own reputation over the good of the international community. That is not global leadership.”