Chinese officials criticized their U.S. counterparts on Tuesday after U.S. leaders, including Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group America needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race MORE, referred to the form of coronavirus behind a worldwide outbreak by a name that directly associates it with China.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang blasted Pompeo for comments he made referring to the virus as the "Wuhan coronavirus" in a statement obtained by CNBC.
Health experts generally agree that the virus originated in mainland China, pointing to similarities between the outbreak and the SARS epidemic.
“Despite the fact that the [World Health Organization] WHO has officially named this novel type of coronavirus, [a] certain American politician, disrespecting science and the WHO decision, jumped at the first chance to stigmatize China and Wuhan with it. We condemn this despicable practice," Geng said.
His comments echoed those of another spokesman, Zhao Lijian, who said last week that China "firmly oppose[s]" any effort to name the virus after China or the Wuhan province where large numbers of cases were first reported.
“It is highly irresponsible for some media to dub it ‘China virus,’” Zhao said last week. “We firmly oppose that.”
“The epidemic is a global challenge. The right move should be working together to fight it, which means no place for rumors and prejudice,” he added. “We need science, reason and cooperation to drive out ignorance and bias.”
Pompeo told CNBC on Friday that he supported use of such terms for the virus, claiming that a Chinese official had admitted that the virus originated inside the country.
“No less [an] authority than the Chinese Communist Party said it came from Wuhan,” Pompeo said. “So don’t take Mike Pompeo’s word for it. We have pretty high confidence that we know where this began.”