The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed leaked World Health Organization (W.H.O.) documents on Wednesday as “seriously inconsistent with facts” after the Associated Press revealed the agency had concerns that the Communist Party was hiding pivotal information on the Chinese coronavirus.
The AP reported on Tuesday that the leaked documents it had access to showed that senior W.H.O. officials were extremely frustrated in the early days of the pandemic with China for, among other things, delaying sharing information on the virus’s genome for over a week. In the months following the initial announcement of the discovery of a new virus, reports revealed that Chinese Communist Party officials had destroyed early samples of the virus obtained from Wuhan, where it originated, making it impossible for scientists to study its early evolution.
The AP report also revealed W.H.O. officials complaining that Beijing was sharing information with the global agency “15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” the communist state broadcaster, and that some feared a public rebuke of China would result in the Communist Party physically harming its doctors and scientists.
“I don’t know where these ‘internal documents’ come from, but I can assure you that certain reports were seriously inconsistent with facts,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian – who rose to prominence on the world stage for claiming, without evidence, that the U.S. Army may have caused the Chinese coronavirus pandemic – asserted on Wednesday.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus], China has been acting with openness, transparency, and a high sense of responsibility,” Zhao said. “We have been in close and good communication and cooperation with W.H.O. and its office in China. We will continue to support W.H.O. in leading the global fight against the virus with concrete actions and work with the larger international community to uphold global public health security.”
Zhao stopped short of denying the accuracy of the AP report or denying the authenticity of the documents the AP alleged to have access to, suggesting that Beijing does not have evidence that the W.H.O.’s alleged private concerns did not actually occur. Instead, Zhao left open the possibility that W.H.O. officials were, in fact, frustrated and concerned over Communist Party obstruction of scientific development to fight the virus, and branded their concerns “inconsistent with facts.”
The Global Times, one of China’s most belligerent English-language state propaganda outlets, also did not offer any refutation of what the AP alleged about the W.H.O., failing to use the word “alleged” when relaying that the AP “cited recordings of internal U.N. meetings and internal documents claiming the W.H.O. publicly praised China in a bid to pull more information out of the Chinese government.”
“Although the W.H.O. continued to publicly commend China, the recordings show they were concerned China was not sharing enough information to assess the risk posed by the new virus, costing the world valuable time,” the AP report asserted on Tuesday. Among the transgressions the W.H.O. documents show officials accusing China of committing were observing the party “sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the deadly virus for over a week after multiple government labs had fully decoded it, not sharing details key to designing tests, drugs, and vaccines.”
The internal documents showing that China stalled for as much as two weeks on sharing information like the genome of the novel coronavirus directly contradicts one of the most vocal points of pride in the Communist Party’s version of the Chinese response to the pandemic. While reports have indicated China knew of coronavirus cases as early as November 2019, the regime released the genome in late January, nearly a month after it shut down the wet market in Wuhan it claimed was the origin of the virus and after it alerted the W.H.O. to the existence of that virus. Chinese regime propagandists have insisted disclosing the genome of the virus occurred at nearly record time.
The AP report also claimed W.H.O. officials felt threatened, according to their internal documents, by the Chinese regime, to compliment Beijing or risk losing all access to any information. Non-compliance with regime praise, they reportedly considered, may also lead to violence against Chinese scientists who may have disagreed with Beijing’s secrecy.
Chinese officials are known to have arrested at least eight health workers in the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan for posting advice on social media on how to contain a contagious disease. At the time, both Beijing and the World Health Organization were insisting that the Chinese coronavirus was not transmissible from human to human.
The AP report follows a similar report from Reuters last month claiming that senior officials within the W.H.O. were frustrated and concerned about Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ insistence on complimenting and defending China on the world stage.
“We knew how it was going to look, and he can sometimes be a bit naive about that, but he’s also stubborn,” an anonymous W.H.O. official told the news agency.
“The [W.H.O.] advisers encouraged Tedros to use less effusive language [in praising China] out of concern about how he would be perceived externally, the person familiar with the discussions said, but the director-general was adamant, in part because he wanted to ensure China’s cooperation in fighting the outbreak,” Reuters asserted.
The German newspaper Der Spiegel published a report shortly before Reuters revealed that German intelligence agencies had reason to believe Chinese dictator Xi Jinping pressured Tedros to delay declaring the coronavirus epidemic a pandemic – meaning no global community was safe – and not to announce that the virus was contagious.