China, pushing conspiracy theory, accuses US Army of bringing coronavirus to Wuhan

A spokesman for the Chinese government on Thursday promoted a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was brought to the city of Wuhan by the U.S. military.

“It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” said Zhao Lijian, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Business Insider reported.

The comment, an alternate explanation Beijing is pushing amid global criticism of the country’s failure to mitigate the virus, comes as the Chinese government has increasingly disputed widespread international reporting that the virus was first detected in Wuhan.

The conspiracy theory, which has recently gained steam in China, instead suggests the virus was brought to the country in 2019 by U.S. athletes participating in the Military World Games that were held in Wuhan.

Zhao pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s acknowledgement in congressional testimony Wednesday that some Americans who appeared to have died from the flu may have died from the virus due to a lack of testing.

“What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao said in a series of tweets.

Redfield did not say the virus had originated in the U.S. in his remarks before Congress.

In comments at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien described China’s response to the virus as a cover up, saying Beijing’s response had cost the international community months that could have been used to prepare for the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, rather than use best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” O’Brien said Wednesday. “There’s lots of open source reporting from Chinese nationals that the doctors involved were either silenced or put in isolation … so the word of this virus could not get out.”

In the meantime, several Republican lawmakers have referred to the illness as the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”

Redfield has pushed back against that characterization, as has Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the vice chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. She said such terminology only “reinforces the disparaging and negative stereotypes of Asian Americans.”

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