China lashes Australia over virus dossier
The Chinese government has hit back at Australian media reports claiming it deliberately concealed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak, saying it could exacerbate tensions between the two countries.
Communist Party mouthpiece The Global Times said that western media outlets - "particularly those in Australia" - have "lost their self-proclaimed journalistic professionalism and independence", and are now "hurting the profound friendship" between the two countries.
"Some Australian media and political elites have lost their independent judgment of the country's overall interests and have adopted a US-led approach to smearing China over COVID-19. They are hurting the profound friendship between the two peoples and the common interests that have long coalesced," the report said, quoting a Chinese professor.
It came after The Saturday Telegraph published a report on a 15-page dossier compiled by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service for "Five Eyes" partners the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.
The report said China's initial secrecy amounted to an "assault on international transparency".
The dossier describes how Chinese authorities covered up the news of the virus "to the endangerment of other countries" by "disappearing" doctors who spoke out.
It claims "virus samples (were) ordered destroyed at genomics labs, wildlife market stalls bleached, the genome sequence not shared publicly, the Shanghai lab closed for 'rectification', academic articles subjected to prior review by the Ministry of Science and Technology and data on asymptomatic 'silent carriers' kept secret".
It also accuses the Chinese government of destroying laboratory evidence and refusing to co-operate with international scientists working on a vaccine.
The report cites a "deadly denial of human-to-human transmission" and a delay in acknowledging the risk to the World Health Organisation, which saw millions in Wuhan free to travel and spread the deadly disease.
Australian intelligence officials say the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been investigating deadly bat-derived coronaviruses.
But experts noted that, while the dossier was "significant", it provided no new evidence to further the case against China.
The Australian Government and NATO officially say it's likely the virus originated in a Wuhan wet market.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence acting director Richard Grenell likewise said the virus was not created in a laboratory.
"The entire intelligence community has been consistently providing critical support to US policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China," he said.
"The intelligence community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.
"As we do in all crises, the community's experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to US national security.
"The intelligence community will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan."
The report comes less than a week after Beijing lashed out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying he deserved "a slap in the face" for trying to blame the COVID-19 pandemic on the communist state, and warned any push for an independent inquiry into the virus' origins would spark a travel and trade boycott.
The state-controlled People's Daily accused the Prime Minister of trying to use the calls for a probe to deflect criticism over his handling of the bushfires and the coronavirus crisis.
"The deeply troubled Morrison government is anxious to find an outlet for the domestic public's anger," the report stated.
"They are using an old trick to try and blame China."
The Global Times also lashed out in a piece headlined: Morrison's adventurism could damage China-Australia relations beyond repair.
"The Morrison administration is spearheading this malicious campaign to frame and incriminate China with groundless conjecture and outlandish fabrications," an editorial states.
"Based on unsubstantiated anecdotes and hearsay, Australia has been spreading preposterous lies accusing China of opening wet markets trading in wildlife across the country. Sensational tales, which are far from reality, are being told by media shock jocks and some politicians, who allege that bats are on menus in restaurants in China. This nonsense is stigmatising the Chinese community and the Chinese way of life.
"This is an all-out crusade against China and Chinese culture, led by Australia."
Global Times editor Hu Xijin also reportedly shared a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo comparing Australia to chewing gum.
"After the epidemic, we need to have more risk awareness when doing business with Australia and also when we send our children to study there," he wrote.
"Australia is always there, making trouble. It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China's shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off."
- with Samantha Maiden
Originally published as China lashes Australia over virus dossier