Global anti-China sentiment amid the coronavirus outbreak is at its highest since Tiananmen Square, a Chinese government report has found.
The report comparing coronavirus-related criticism to the Tiananmen Square crackdown on student protesters in 1989 was delivered to top Chinese Communist Party officials by the Ministry of State Security, Reuters reported.
Though the news outlet has not seen the briefing, the research is based on sources who have direct knowledge of the findings, which suggest Beijing is taking the backlash seriously.
The internal paper reportedly concluded the rising anti-China sentiment was partly due to US attempts to undermine global confidence in Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to dodge criticism for his management of the crisis by blaming China for failing to act fast enough, silencing whistleblowers and withholding information.
He has also claimed the deadly virus was created in a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan – not a wet market as widely believed.
“Personally, I think they made a horrible mistake, and they didn’t want to admit it,” Mr Trump said of China during a Fox News interview on Sunday.
US intelligence agencies are expected to deliver a report into their perceived origins of the outbreak in coming days.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has taken accusations against China a step further, telling America’s ABC TV network on Sunday: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan”.
He said China “has a history of infecting the world and they have a history of running sub-standard laboratories”.
Chinese state media have lashed out at Mr Pompeo, accusing him of losing his “moral compass” and imploring him to present his “evidence” to the world.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has called for a science-based inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus, flagging it would be willing to read the White House report if it became publicly available.
On Monday, the WHO’s top emergencies expert Dr Mike Ryan said: “Like any evidence-based organisation, we would be very willing to receive any information that purport to the origin of the virus”.
But he said the evidence so far shows the virus is of “natural origin”.
“We need to understand that we can learn from Chinese scientists,” Dr Ryan said.
“If this is projected as an aggressive investigation of wrongdoing then I believe that’s much more difficult to deal with – that’s a political issue, that is not a science issue.”