AFP: Zoom, the video conference platform, said it has briefly suspended accounts belonging to some activists. Did the Chinese government instruct the company to do this? Do you have any comment on Zoom’s action?
Hua Chunying: This is not a diplomatic matter, and it is too specific. I’m not aware of that.
Shenzhen TV: According to ABC News, a recent study from Harvard Medical School, which assessed the traffic volume near several hospitals in Wuhan and Baidu search trend of keywords, suggested that the coronavirus may have been spreading in Wuhan as early as last August. This paper has met strong doubts from experts and media in China, who believe the study is outrageously flawed. On June 10, WHO responded that the traffic volume change in the parking lots of hospitals should not be over-interpreted, and neither should we jump to the conclusion that this is correlated to the coronavirus. However, such a study has been cited by some US politicians as evidence to accuse China of covering up the epidemic. All this leads to suspicion that the study is premeditated to serve a certain purpose. Do you have any comment?
Chunying: As I recall, the day before yesterday, CNN first raised a question to me about this ABC News report regarding Harvard Medical School. I was quite surprised at that time, and my instinct is like how can they presume when the coronavirus first appeared by assessing the number of vehicles in hospital parking lots? It’s just ridiculous. I noted that Chinese media, professionals from National Health Commission, and WHO experts raised doubts and made criticisms on this study.
I’ve also read that news report. Besides determining the earliest possible time of the Covid-19 outbreak based on the amount of cars in hospital parking lots, there are other obvious loopholes as well. As you said, they are outrageously flawed.
First, DASH is Harvard’s open-access repository to collect, save and publish research by members of the Harvard community, not an academic journal that requires rigorous peer review. Does the said study truly reflect Harvard’s viewpoint and standard? I’m afraid there’s a big question mark over it.
Second, one of the authors of the study “happens” to be a contributor of ABC News that exclusively reported the study, and ABC News just “happened” to have covered it with a lot more data even before the study was pre-released.
Third, a diagram in the ABC News report was marked “May 2019”. I’m not sure if it’s an unintentional mistake or due to some other reason.
Fourth, regarding the search data of “cough” and “diarrhoea”, which is considered key evidence in the study, I noticed that some Chinese media, after in-depth research, found that the increase in “cough” and “diarrhoea” search data cited by the study is actually less than that over the same period in 2017 and 2018. Does that mean that Wuhan had Covid-19 cases as early as 2017? That’s indeed a bizarre way to put two things together.
As you mentioned, on June 10, Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program said that one cannot read too much into the changing number of cars in the hospital’s parking lot, and then “skip” two or three steps to conclude that this has something to do with the Covid-19 outbreak. It simply does not tell those things.
In fact, it is odd that such a serious scientific issue should be taken so lightly. However, this so-called research, full of loopholes and shoddy work, is widely circulated by some US politicians and media as new “evidence” of China’s concealment of the epidemic. I’m afraid behind this ridiculous phenomenon is a motive not that ridiculous at all. This is new proof that some in the US are deliberately creating and disseminating disinformation against China, which should be unanimously condemned and rejected by the international community.
Authors of this research may consider changing course and looking at the links between the Fort Detrick biolab’s closure last year and the subsequent EVALI, the seasonal flu and the Covid-19 outbreak. Why haven’t any American scientists conducted in-depth and scientific research on such an important matter yet? Why haven’t the American media dived into it and made some deep, independent coverage? These question are worth pondering.
AFP: You mentioned yesterday that China and India are taking actions to ease the border situation. So could you give more details on what these actions are?
Chunying: I have no more details regarding the situation on the ground. But I can confirm that China and India have conducted effective communication and reached agreement on properly handling the situation in the west section of the China-India boundary. At present, the two sides are taking actions in line with the agreement to ameliorate the border situation.
Bloomberg: A question about the national security law for Hong Kong. Will it be used to put restrictions on the Internet in Hong Kong? Will China remove apps or websites that it deems a threat to national security in Hong Kong?
Chunying: Your question is very specific. The NPC has made a decision on establishing and improving a legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the HKSAR, but the details will not be established before the legislative procedure is completed. One thing is clear: the national security law for Hong Kong targets only a narrow category of acts that gravely jeopardise national security.
Question raised after the press conference: Media reports say a US C-40A transport jet flew over the Taiwan region on June 9. Do you have any comment on that?
Chunying: China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this move by the US, which gravely violates international law and basic norms governing international relations. We urge the US to adhere to the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, and immediately stop such unlawful and provocative behaviours…
Edited excerpts from a briefing by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying in Beijing, June 11