China on Tuesday went on the offensive against international criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing US politicians of “barefaced lies”.
The new virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before spreading across the world, and countries including the United States and Australia have called for an investigation into how the disease transformed into a global pandemic.
But Beijing came out swinging on Tuesday in response to foreign criticism, saying the US was attacking China to divert attention from its own handling of the outbreak.
China also defended its ambassador to Australia who has warned that Chinese people could boycott imported goods in retaliation to the demands for a virus inquiry.
“American politicians have repeatedly ignored the truth and have been telling barefaced lies,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a press briefing. “They have only one objective: shirk their responsibility for their own poor epidemic prevention and control measures, and divert public attention,” he added.
Geng said US politicians should “reflect on their own problems and find ways to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible”.
US President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that he might seek damages from China over the outbreak, saying there were many options to “hold them accountable”.
“We are not happy with China,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “We are not happy with that whole situation because we believe it could have been stopped at the source.”
Beijing also faces pressure Down Under after the head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, asked the Chinese ambassador to explain his boycott comments.
In a thinly veiled threat, Cheng Jingye had warned the push for an independent inquest into the origins of the outbreak was “dangerous”, and might prompt Chinese people not to buy Australian food or attend Australian universities.
But Beijing defended the diplomat in strident comments on Tuesday. “The remarks by the Chinese ambassador are in response to the recent erroneous remarks made by the Australian side, which have aroused the dissatisfaction of the Chinese people and a possible impact on bilateral relations,” said Geng.