The Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, appeared to not deny that the coronavirus came from China’s biological warfare program on Sunday and instead suggested that the deadly virus could have come from a military lab in the U.S.
Tiankai made the remarks on CBS News’ “Face The Nation” in response to China’s struggle to stop the coronavirus from continuing to spread. It has now infected at least 37,198 and killed at least 811 in China.
“This week, Senator Tom Cotton, who sits on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, suggested that the virus may have come from China’s biological warfare program,” CBS News’ Margaret Brennan said. “That’s an extraordinary charge. How do you respond to that?”
“I think it’s true that a lot is still unknown and our scientists, Chinese scientists, American scientists, scientists of other countries are doing their best to learn more about the virus, but it’s very harmful,” Cui responded. “It’s very dangerous to stir up suspicion, rumors and spread them among the people. For one thing, this will create panic. Another thing that it will fend up racial discrimination, xenophobia, all these things, that will really harm our joint efforts to combat the virus.”
“Of course, there are all kinds of speculation and rumors,” Cui continued. “There are people who are saying that these virus are coming from some — some military lab, not of China, maybe in the United States. How — how can we believe all these crazy things?”
“You think it’s crazy,” Brennan pressed. “Where did the virus come from?”
“Absolutely crazy,” responded.
“Where did the virus come from?” Brennan asked.
“We still don’t know yet,” Cui responded. “It’s probably according to some initial outcome of the research, probably coming from some animals. But we have to — to discover more about it.”
Republican National Committee (RNC) Rapid Response Director Steve Guest flagged the clip on Twitter, writing, “China’s ambassador to the United States just went on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ and DID NOT deny that coronavirus stemmed from the Chinese military’s biological warfare program. Amb. Cui Tiankai then suggested that the virus could come from a US military lab.”
China's ambassador to the United States just went on CBS' "Face the Nation" and DID NOT deny that coronavirus stemmed from the Chinese military's biological warfare program.
Amb. Cui Tiankai then suggested that the virus could come from a US military lab. pic.twitter.com/z2g254iccz
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 9, 2020
“The coronavirus death toll in China has risen to 811, surpassing the toll from the SARS epidemic of 2002-3, according to official data released on Sunday,” The New York Times reported. “The number of confirmed infections rose to 37,198, according to China’s National Health Commission. Eighty-nine deaths and 2,656 new cases were recorded in the preceding 24 hours, most of them in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak.”
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned against misinformation last week, saying that it was “making the work of our heroic workers even harder.”
“I would also like to speak briefly about the importance of facts, not fear,” Tedros said. “People must have access to accurate information to protect themselves and others.”
“At the WHO we’re not just battling the virus, we’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theories that undermine our response,” Tedros continued. “As a Guardian [newspaper] headline says today, ‘Misinformation on the coronavirus might be the most contagious thing about it’.”
The BBC reported that a Russian state media organization suggested that the American government was behind the virus.
The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that some in Arab media blamed the United States and said that the virus was being weaponized against China.
“Following the spread of the coronavirus in China and other countries, several writers in the Arab press wrote that this virus and others, such as the SARS and swine flu viruses, were deliberately created and spread by the U.S. in order to make a profit by selling vaccines against these diseases,” MEMRI reported. “Others wrote that the virus was part of an economic and psychological war waged by the U.S. against China with the aim of weakening it and presenting it as a backward country and a source of diseases.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.