China 'open' to international effort to identify coronavirus origin: Chinese foreign minister

A Chinese flag flutters in Beijing on May 22, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS, XINHUA) - China is "open" to international cooperation to identify the source of the new coronavirus but any investigation must be "free of political interference", China's top diplomat said on Sunday (May 24).

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi blasted what he called efforts by US politicians to "fabricate rumours" about the pathogen's origins and "stigmatise China".

The United States and Australia have called in recent weeks for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

Both US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have accused China of a lack of transparency over the issue, and repeatedly pushed the theory that the virus leaked from a Chinese maximum-security laboratory.

Most scientists believe the virus jumped from animals to humans, possibly from a market selling exotic animals for meat in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

"China is open to working with the international scientific community to look into the source of the virus," Mr Wang said at a press conference on the sidelines of China's annual parliament session.

"At the same time, we believe that this should be professional, fair and constructive," he added. "Fairness means the process be free of political interference, respect the sovereignty of all countries, and oppose any presumption of guilt."

The World Health Organisation has also called on Beijing to invite it in to investigate the source, with China proposing that the "global response" to Covid-19 should only be assessed when the pandemic is over.

WHO members on Tuesday adopted a resolution at the UN body's first virtual assembly to review international handling of the pandemic.

Mr Wang on Sunday said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has done a good job and countries with decency will support the body.

He added that those who throw mud at the WHO will only leave a stain on themselves.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.