Beijing hits back at criticism over Covid-19 on eve of key political meetings

Beijing has been grappling both with international criticism. PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior Chinese official has hit back at criticism over how China handled the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it was "utterly unjustifiable" to accuse Beijing of hiding information about the coronavirus and causing its spread to other countries.

Mr Guo Weimin, spokesman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the Chinese government, also said it was "unreasonable" to say Beijing was trying to boost its international standing and compete for world leadership by sending medical supplies and aid to other countries.

China had done these things, in addition to sharing its experience in dealing with the pandemic, so that the Covid-19 outbreak can be brought under control in those countries and normalcy restored as soon as possible, he said.

"These practices embody the spirit of humanitarianism, the responsibility of a responsible big country, and the excellent tradition of the Chinese nation of working together and looking out for each other," he said, noting that some foreign countries had also sent aid to China during its peak of the outbreak.

"To accuse China of trying to boost its profile and even saying that 'China wants to compete for world leadership' - this is unreasonable and a very narrow minded way of thinking."

His comments at a briefing to foreign and local media come on the eve of China's Two Sessions - the most important political meetings of the year.

The Two Sessions, known as lianghui in Chinese, are meetings of the CPPCC and National People's Congress, China's legislature. The annual meetings are typically held in Beijing in March, but this was pushed back to May this year because of Covid-19.

Beijing has been grappling both with international criticism that it had hid information during the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak, and growing calls for an international investigation over the origins of the pandemic.

While he did not name anyone in particular, Mr Guo said "some politicians in the United States and a few other countries" have politicised the pandemic and are trying to discredit China for their own domestic political needs - in order to divert people's attentions and shirk their responsibilities.

He pointed out that China has had a "open, transparent and responsible attitude" in releasing information related to Covid-19 in a timely manner.

This included reporting to the World Health Organization about the outbreak on Jan 3 and sharing the genomic sequence of the coronavirus with the world on Jan 12. It has also held regular press briefings on its measures to deal with its domestic outbreak, which has served as an "important guide for the world", he said.

"To say that China hid information on the pandemic and caused it to spread to other countries, this is utterly unjustifiable," he said.

He also addressed concerns over quality issues in medical supplies that Beijing sent to other countries, pointing out that strict measures have been taken to ensure quality.

"China exports a large amount of medical materials, but there are only a few of them with problems," he said.

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