US ambassador to Britain accuses China of withholding facts about the coronavirus
Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the United Kingdom, at Hyde Park in London in April 2018. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, has accused China of engaging in “blatant and dangerous propaganda” about the coronavirus, saying the world might have been spared the full impact had Chinese officials not suppressed facts early on.
In an opinion piece published in Britain’s The Times newspaper, Johnson says China failed in its obligation to the international community to share information about the outbreak transparently.
“First (China) tried to suppress the news. Then, it worked to protect its own population while selectively sharing critical information, such as genetic sequence data, and continuing to stonewall international health authorities that were offering assistance, requesting access and seeking more information,” Johnson wrote.
“Had China done the right things at the right time, more of its own population, and the rest of the world, might have been spared the most serious impact of this disease.
He added that when the crisis abates, there will need to be an evaluation of the costs of the “breakdown in international collaboration” and China’s actions early on.
Some context: China has faced criticism both internationally and domestically for its handling of the outbreak in the first few weeks, when local officials in Wuhan detained and targeted doctors who tried to speak out about the emergence of a new virus.
One of those doctors, Li Wenliang, later died of the virus, sparking fury and calls for freedom of speech on Chinese social media.
Earlier this month, the Chinese government included Li in a list of of 506 healthcare and response workers who acted as “advanced individuals in the prevention and control of novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in national health system.”
WHO response: The World Health Organization has acknowledged “mistakes” made by China, but its officials have largely been positive about how the country has responded to the crisis.