China demands evidence as Trump, Pompeo ramp up unproven virus claims

China fired back Monday at comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who continues to assert the coronavirus pandemic originated inside a research laboratory in Wuhan, China, and that Beijing is deliberately covering it up despite no evidence to back up the claims.

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Criticized about his handling of the crisis, President Donald Trump began ramping up his own public claims of the theory last week, saying the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and not in a wildlife market a few miles away as many health experts have widely concluded.

U.S. intelligence investigating the lab origination theory have reached no conclusions, but administration officials continued to espouse the probability on Sunday’s political talk shows.

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Speaking on the ABC program “This Week,” Pompeo said Sunday “there’s enormous evidence” the coronavirus came from the lab, adding he agreed with the intelligence assessment that there was no indication the virus was manmade or genetically modified.

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Chinese state media reacted angrily.

Global Times newspaper said in an editorial Monday that the former CIA director had “stunned the world with groundless accusations.”

“Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool,” the editorial states. “The truth is that Pompeo does not have any evidence, and during Sunday’s interview, he was bluffing.”

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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement last Thursday saying it was continuing to “rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence” to determine whether the outbreak began with infected animals or whether “it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

The New York Times reported last week the administration is pressuring the intelligence community to lend weight to the theory despite scientists who closely studied the origins of the virus saying they found a natural genesis in wildlife.

Complicating the matter, China is accused of hiding the true number of infections and deaths in the region, silencing whistleblowers and withholding information about the severity of the crisis. Some reports claim Chinese officials hid the danger so they could secure required medical equipment.

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Beijing, on the other hand, accuses the U.S. of shifting blame because it was unprepared to deal with a pandemic.

Some experts believe the back-and-forth could affect a tariff agreement the two nations signed earlier this year before the outbreak reached the United States.

The international blame game includes a short animated video produced by China’s state-run news agency Xinhua called “Once Upon A Virus.” Viewed 1.9 million times on Twitter, the video mocks the U.S. response to the pandemic.

“They have only one objective: to try to shirk responsibility for their own epidemic and prevention and control measures and divert public attention,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

The Global Times editorial accused the Trump administration of trying to “divert attention from the incompetence it has displayed in fighting the pandemic.”

“As the U.S. presidential election campaigns are underway, the Trump administration has implemented a strategy designed to divert attention from the incompetence it has displayed in fighting the pandemic. It is clear that their goal is to blame China for the pandemic by pinpointing the country as the source of Covid-19,” it said in the editorial.