Hu Wei, Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, in an exclusive interview with Dailymirror said that some politicians who were stigmatizing China on COVID-19 were trying to cover up their own failures by not being able to prevent and control the pandemic in their countries and their administrations were going to be held accountable for that by their people.
Wei further rubbished allegations that the COVID-19 had originated in a secret lab in Wuhan, stating that until now, the authoritative scientific community still holds that the virus came from nature, with more and more evidence supporting their conclusion.
“It’s a pity that there are always people who prefer to believe lies or rumors rather than facts and science,” Wei said.
Q Ambassador do you accept that COVID-19 has its origins in China or do you feel it originated elsewhere? Because this new COVID-19 was reported to have its first case in humans in Wuhan after which it spread tremendously?
A - Many leading health authorities including the WHO, the Lancet and Nature etc. have repeatedly responded to a relevant question with a strong opinion that the origin of COVID-19 is a matter of science, which could only be concluded by scientists with professional research but not by any politician or media through assumption or even fabrication. A place with the earliest reported case is not necessarily where the virus was generated. Furthermore, we have noticed that recent studies found much earlier Patient Zero in the United States and Europe, some even as early as last October and November. It drives more and more people to question the virus might possibly come from the United States or Europe or somewhere else. Anyhow, as China always insists, we need more patience to let international scientists finally answer this question.
"I believe everyone has noticed that these politicians are those who could not prevent and control the pandemic, and their administrations are going to be held accountable for that by their people. Perhaps their concern is not to defeat the virus, but to win votes."
Q There are allegations that the government of China did not act on this outbreak seriously, during its initial stages, and also suppressed the information which prevented the world from preparing for this outbreak. It is alleged that so much information was hidden by your government which is why the world is facing this pandemic today. How do you respond to these allegations? Has there been a cover-up by China?
A - These allegations were mainly raised by some Western politicians and media. It is intriguing to see they turned up their alleged volume against China only after the pandemic got worse or even out of control in their own countries. The timing made us wonder if their intention might just be to divert attention and cover up their own inaction. In fact, universally the international community and the medical professionals, in particular, praised the speed and intensity of China’s prevention and control measures at the outbreak, which effectively prevented the spread of the virus and saved tens of millions innocent people in China and the world. Besides, information sharing was also highly transparent. China’s efforts provided valuable time and experience for the international community to fight the pandemic. The timeline of China’s fight explains it all.
Ironically, even after a couple of months and thousands of deaths, some of those countries who keep accusing China didn’t take it seriously, still couldn’t adopt strict prevention and control measures as China, sometimes not even close. It’s very regrettable to see some wasted the valuable time window of weeks that we have won for them with huge sacrifice. China was not so lucky. What we were faced with at that time is a completely unknown virus, which obviously required a process to learn about it.
"I strongly advise them to concentrate on prevention and control work in a responsible manner to their own people and people all over the world, rather than being desperate on manipulating and spreading a political virus"
Q How did China actually realize about this pandemic and its seriousness? Was it through Dr Li Wenliang who it is alleged, was detained after he raised the alarm bells on a chat group about the virus?
A - As I mentioned, our knowledge and understanding of the new coronavirus take a process. In this process, doctors and scientists played a key role. But it should also be noted that, although well known as a whistleblower, Dr Li Wenliang was an oculist and his conjecture on social media at the very beginning was about SARS instead of COVID-19. As we knew nothing about this new virus at that time, it is also a common practice for local authorities to take a cautious attitude towards epidemic-related comments on social media. Sri Lankan government keeps similar high vigilance as well, which is very necessary, in my opinion.
Q There are increasing allegations that this virus originated in a secret lab in Wuhan. How do you respond to this? And do we still know if this started from an animal?
A - I also heard a lot of rumours about the virus coming from a US military biological laboratory. However, as I just said, until now the authoritative scientific community still holds that the virus came from nature, with more and more evidence supporting their conclusion. It is a pity that there are always people who prefer to believe lies or rumours rather than facts and science.
"A place with the earliest reported case is not necessarily where the virus was generated. Furthermore, we have noticed that recent studies found much earlier Patient Zero in the United States and Europe, some even as early as last October and November"
Q Many countries say they are unhappy with China’s version of the story about COVID-19 and have called for an international investigation into the origins of the pandemic as well as China’s early response to the outbreak. What can you say about this?
A - Indeed, some politicians have made such comments. But I seriously doubt whether this voice can represent the mainstream opinions of the international community and whether these politicians can represent the people of their own countries. I believe everyone has noticed that these politicians are basically those who could not prevent and control the pandemic, and their administrations are going to be held accountable for that by their people. Perhaps their concern is not to defeat the virus, but to win votes. I hope they will learn the lesson and focus on fighting COVID-19, otherwise, they may not be able to escape domestic investigation by their people in the future.
After the first suspicious case was reported, China notified the WHO and invited its expert team (composing US professionals too) to visit many places in China including Wuhan to assist in the research work. We have always been open to international cooperation. What we strongly oppose is to put China on the dock first without any evidence and only on basis of guilty presumption, and then try to find any “evidence” serving their purpose through so-called “international and independent” investigation.
"It drives more and more people to question the virus might possibly come from the United States or Europe or somewhere else"
Q Some countries are also accusing China now of spreading disinformation through their overseas diplomatic missions. Some diplomatic officials, it is alleged, are using social media to promote disinformation alleging that other countries had smuggled the coronavirus into China. What can you say about this?
A - Perhaps the biggest “disinformation” in the epidemic is all the information officially provided by China, no matter with how irrefutable facts, it is always labelled as “disinformation” by some biased politicians and media. This political virus of “ABC (Anything But China) Mindset” is equally deadly. Some senior officials of Western countries keep “lying, cheating and stealing”, and always blame China without any evidence but fabricated accusations, even when their own medical and scientific professionals clearly opposed it. They deserve better the word “spreading disinformation”.
Q Why is China being portrayed as ‘evil’ by some countries? Is it because they may be despising the strong economy China has maintained in this era and China is fast gaining popularity in the world by assisting developing nations in infrastructure projects and developments? Do you think other powerful countries are jealous of China’s achievement?
A - Anyone who is reasonable may also wonder the same first question as you, and I believe you have just given them the answer by asking the second one. As to your third question, I’ve no comment but suggest you could ask them directly. Interestingly though, I would like to add that 400 years after Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by stupidity, there are still some people who instinctively oppose and try to eliminate any opinion that is different from their own, even if this has been scientifically justified. Such narrow-mindedness is indeed a sadness for all human beings.
"It should be noted that consumption of wildlife in China is far less common than some foreigners imagine."
Q Following the spread of this new coronavirus, has China completely banned its wildlife markets?
A - At the moment, China’s legislature has banned illegal hunting, trading, and transporting of wildlife. Illegal wildlife trading places have also been cracked down. Meanwhile, it should be noted that the consumption of wildlife in China is far less common than some foreigners imagine. I can’t come up with even one single relative or friend of mine who has this taste. Plus, there are many Chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka, and also many Sri Lankan visit or live in China. Just enter any restaurant or local fresh market, and you will realize this impression is not true.
Q Sri Lanka, presently has detected over 800 cases of the COVID-19. In your view, how do you think Sri Lanka is fighting the virus?
A - After the outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government quickly took a series of decisive and concrete measures, while the medical workers, tri-forces, police and all the people of the country actively responded and cooperated, which has achieved positive effects accordingly. I should say so far Sri Lanka has controlled the spread of the epidemic very well, and the prevention and control work is generally effective and impressive, which is widely recognized by the international community.
I would also like to bring into your attention that the virus is very contagious, and no one should treat it lightly and be exposed to the virus without protection. This is what we learned during our fight against the pandemic.
"I also heard a lot of rumors about the virus coming from a U.S. military biological laboratory."
Q In the past few weeks, China has made valuable donations to the Sri Lankan government by donating medical equipment to help the country fight the virus. How more do you think you can help the Sri Lankan authorities in their fight?
A - China and Sri Lanka are true friends tested by wind and rain, helping each other at need. We will never forget the solidarity and support extended by Sri Lankan political and religious leaders, all sectors of society and grassroots people during China’s most difficult period. When the pandemic broke out in Sri Lanka, all sectors of society in China felt and were concerned just like it was happening to us.
The Chinese government, enterprises and individuals have donated big quantities of urgently needed medical supplies to Sri Lanka, which is much more valuable under surging global demand. We’re honoured and encouraged to learn from Dr Anil Jasinghe that Sri Lanka now mainly counts on China’s medical supplies in this combat. This kind of help is still coming continuously.
Recently, the Chinese central government is raising another batch of medical supplies, including 30,000 sets of PPE coverall and 30,000 test kits etc. I believe it will be very helpful for the next stage of prevention and control work in Sri Lanka.
Perhaps their concern is not to defeat the virus, but to win votes."
Q Right now the whole COVID-19 world has stigmatized China and its people. What message would you like to give the world right now?
A – A few prejudiced Westerners never represent the whole world, and I believe they cannot represent Sri Lanka either. No matter how they shout, time will tell everyone the truth. The drama of forcefully convincing Iraq with mass destruction weapons is still alive in our memories.
At present, the pandemic is still spreading around the world, especially in those countries that heavily stigmatize China.
I strongly advise them to concentrate on prevention and control work in a responsible manner to their own people and people all over the world, rather than being desperate on manipulating and spreading a political virus. COVID-19 proves again that the destiny of mankind is closely related, and China is willing to continue to unite with the people of all countries in the world and work together to fight the epidemic. United we stand, divided we fall.
- Jamila Husain