The heightened allegation by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the coronavirus pandemic can be traced to a Chinese laboratory sparked an angry response by China’s media on Monday in the absence of any official government comment during a national holiday.
The Trump administration in recent days has accused China of a lack of transparency about the origin of the outbreak that has worsened its global death toll. Mr. Pompeo on Sunday placed direct blame on a laboratory in Wuhan where the coronavirus was first identified late last year.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Chinese government-run research center that has actively studied coronaviruses, has drawn global scrutiny because it has actively studied the origin of such disease in bats.
China has denied allegations its facilities were to blame and says the government’s response to the outbreak was comprehensive and saved lives around the world, a message repeated through state run media on Monday.
The official news agency Xinhua on Monday accused Mr. Pompeo of speaking “nonsense” and telling “lies,” while a news reader on China Central Television called the secretary “evil” and said he was “spitting poison.”
The response followed Mr. Pompeo’s remarks on Sunday about the coronavirus: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” program. Mr. Pompeo didn’t describe the evidence.
To protest China’s handling of the outbreak, the Trump administration recently suspended support for the World Health Organization and last week said it would cut off funding to a long-running project to understand coronaviruses harbored in bats that was run in conjunction with the Wuhan institute.
China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to questions about Mr. Pompeo’s latest statement but in the past has dismissed any possibility of man-made errors in Wuhan. Asked last week about the lab during a regular press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang pointed to comments from a top official of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who had told domestic media that while it is understandable that people might raise questions about the labs, “there’s no way this virus came from us.”
Mr. Pompeo’s hawkish stands on China’s human-rights record and its military activities in the South China Seas have often put him at loggerheads with Beijing’s leadership. In Monday’s response to his comments on the lab, Xinhua described Mr. Pompeo as “one of the worst Secretaries of the State in American history.”
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