News Coronavirus Chinese embassy ridicules claims on virus inquiry

Chinese embassy ridicules claims on virus inquiry

china embassy australia inquiry
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye has been critical of Australia's calls for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus origins. Photo: ABC
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China’s embassy in Canberra says it is a joke for Australia to claim it has been vindicated by international support for a coronavirus inquiry.

On Monday night, Australia joined more than 100 countries at the World Health Assembly to co-sign a motion for an inquiry into the global outbreak.

The WHA resolution calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is expected to pass at the WHA gathering in Geneva later on Tuesday.

Australia was the first country to call for an inquiry, a move that sparked a diplomatic row with China.

Senior Coalition figures claim the inquiry vindicates the government’s stance, prompting a scathing response from China’s embassy in Australia.

“The draft resolution on COVID-19 to be adopted by the World Health Assembly is totally different from Australia’s proposal of an independent international review,” a spokesman said on Tuesday.

“To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke.”

A close look at the draft motion “itself can easily come to such a conclusion”, the spokesman said.

“All those who know the consultation process that led to the resolution understand this.”

Senior cabinet minister David Littleproud denied the investigation was about confronting China.

“This wasn’t about persecution, this was about understanding a pandemic that 300,000 souls lost their lives to,” he said on Tuesday.

“We should be damn proud Australia is now leading the world.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt argued Australia’s case for the inquiry at the assembly.

He said the probe should look at health risks from wildlife wet markets, where the virus is likely to have originated in China.

“We need to learn the lessons from this pandemic and ensure we have the strongest possible global health architecture, with an enhanced ability to prevent and respond to future outbreaks,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also backed a World Health Organisation-led review, saying his country acted with openness, transparency and responsibility all along.

“This work needs a scientific and professional attitude and needs to be led by the WHO. And the principles of objectivity and fairness need to be upheld,” Mr Xi told the meeting.

Mr Xi also said China would stump up $3.1 billion in the next two years to help deal with the disease.

The WHO promised the review would happen at the earliest appropriate time.

US President Donald Trump supported the probe by tweeting an AAP Newswire/SBS story on the motion.

He followed that up within hours with a threat to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO and reconsider US membership unless the organisation, which is governed by the WHA, reforms.

“If the WHO does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership in the organisation,” Mr Trump told WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a letter posted on Twitter on Tuesday (Australian time).

Mr Trump froze US funding to the WHO in April, after accusing the organisation of being “China-centric” and bungling management of the coronavirus outbreak.

He said “so much death has been caused by their mistakes”.

“It would have been so easy to be truthful,” Mr Trump said.

“We will continue to engage with the WHO to see if it can make meaningful reforms.”

The US contributed nearly $US900 million ($1.4 billion) to the WHO’s budget for 2018-19, according to information on the agency’s website.

That represents a fifth of its total $4.4 billion budget for those years.

-with agencies