China Says Pompeo Is Lying About Virus Lab Leak

A vendor hands over groceries last month in Wuhan, China, where neighborhoods had barriers erected to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AFP) — China hit back Wednesday at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claims that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, saying he “doesn’t have any” evidence.

Washington and Beijing have clashed repeatedly over the virus, which emerged in China late last year and then spiraled into a global pandemic.

Conspiracy theories that the virus came from a maximum-security virology lab in Wuhan have been promoted by Pompeo and President Trump.

Pompeo said on Sunday that there was “enormous evidence” to show that the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.

But foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday: “I think this matter should be handed to scientists and medical professionals, and not politicians who lie for their own domestic political ends.”

“Mr. Pompeo repeatedly spoke up but he cannot present any evidence. How can he? Because he doesn’t have any,” she said.

Most scientists believe the new virus jumped from animals to humans, with suspicion around a market in Wuhan that sold wildlife for meat.

President Trump has been increasingly critical of China’s management of the outbreak, saying last week he had seen evidence linking the virus to the Wuhan lab and threatening new trade tariffs against Beijing.

The United States is the worst-hit country in the world, with more than 70,000 deaths.

Beijing says the United States is merely trying to divert attention from its own bungled handling of the pandemic.

“We urge the U.S. to stop … shifting the focus to China,” Hua said.

“It should handle its domestic affairs properly first. The most important thing now is to control the U.S.’ domestic pandemic spread and think of ways to save lives.” 

The World Health Organization called U.S. claims about the origin of the virus “speculative.”

The top U.S. epidemiologist Anthony Fauci has echoed the WHO’s statement, telling the National Geographic that all evidence “strongly indicates” a natural origin.

But the United States has called for an investigation into how the disease transformed into a global pandemic.

Officially, China’s toll for the virus is 4,633, but several countries have cast doubt on whether the numbers are accurate.

China and the United States had only recently soothed economic tensions, with the signing of a phase one trade deal in January.

Since then, the world’s two biggest economies have been exchanging insults and accusations.

Trump and his administration angered Beijing by repeatedly referring to “the Chinese virus” when discussing the Covid-19 pandemic.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing — with no more evidence than Pompeo — has suggested the U.S. military may have brought the virus to Wuhan.

Hua said on Wednesday that there had been “many reports” suggesting there were coronavirus cases discovered in the United States and France last year, and said that this suggests the “sources (of the virus) are very diverse.”

© Agence France-Presse

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