‘China is a victim’ of coronavirus disinformation, Chinese ambassador to Canada says

In an interview with Mercedes Stephenson, China's ambassador to Canada claims 'China is a victim' of a coronavirus disinformation campaign.

China‘s ambassador to Canada is insisting his country is being victimized by a campaign of disinformation about its role in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The claim, however, comes amid growing criticism of China’s handling of the crisis and accusations that its own diplomats are circulating false information designed to cover up their handling of early spread.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson airing on Sunday, Cong Peiwu says reports of Chinese intimidation and aggression against countries raising questions about its handling of the pandemic are not true and that his country wants a “foreign policy of peace.”

That comes after China blocked some imports of beef from Australia after that country called for an inquiry into its handling of the crisis, an apparent follow-through on previous Chinese threats.

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“We are engaged in friendly exchange with other countries so there’s no things like bullying other countries,” Cong said.

“Rather, China is a victim not only of the disease itself but also of disinformation.”

China first reported cases of an unknown new illness to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31.

But in the weeks before and after, Chinese officials clamped down on local doctors who tried to raise alarm bells about the spread of the new illness.

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That secrecy — along with shifting case numbers — has been the focus on mounting international questions over recent months centering on whether Chinese officials concealed vital information that could have slowed or stopped the spread of the virus.

American media reports in Bloomberg, the New York Times and the Washington Post have cited intelligence community sources in that country as saying that U.S. officials believe Chinese case data reported to the WHO was not accurate — or as Bloomberg put it, “intentionally incomplete.”

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Cong said the criticisms about China’s handling of the outbreak from the U.S. is all about politics.

“So you can see some politicians in the United States, they’re waging political campaign against China, trying to smear China’s image ” he said.

“That won’t help in their fight against the disease and to save lives of the American people.”

He also faced questions about the fates of two Canadian citizens detained in China for more than one year in what is widely viewed as retaliation by China for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Meng was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport at the behest of American authorities, charged her and her company the following month with 23 counts of skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran and stealing corporate secrets.

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She is currently on bail living in her Vancouver mansion while Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are detained in a Chinese prison in what officials call “harsh” conditions.

Neither have been allowed consular visits in four months.

“There’s nothing like hostage taking. Those two Canadians are engaged in suspected crimes of endangering Chinese national security, so the competent Chinese authorities are handling the case according to law and I would like to tell you they are in good physical condition,” said Cong.

He then raised the case of Meng.

“But I would like to take this opportunity to point out that actually the biggest issue in our bilateral relationship is still Meng Wanzhou’s case, so that’s why we have made our position very clear to make sure that she’s back in China smoothly and safely.”

He refused to answer when asked twice why Kovrig and Spavor have not been allowed video consular calls, something Canadian officials have requested.

“Madam Meng should not be detained in Vancouver in the first place and the further two Canadian citizens, we are making sure that they receive all the treatments in accordance with law,” Cong said, adding that they and other detainees have been given “better food” to improve immunity.

“I think that my point is very clear. We want to make sure that the safety and health of those detainees are protected so as long as the situation gets better, we will resume these consular visits.”

Tune in to The West Block at 11 AM on Sunday to watch the full interview.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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