China says Australia’s call for virus probe not vindicated by World Health Assembly

  1. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO), walks past the headquarters of the body after a meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 18, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)
China says the World Health Assembly (WHA) has not vindicated Australia by considering a draft resolution that calls for an investigation into the origin of the new coronavirus.

A two-day, annual meeting of the WHA, which is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), began on Monday. Discussing the draft resolution is on the assembly’s agenda.

Australia, one of the co-sponsors of the motion, has taken the consideration of the draft text to mean that the WHA backs Canberra’s push for a global review.

“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,” the Chinese Embassy in Australia said in a statement.

“To claim the WHA’s resolution [is] a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke,” the statement added.

The call for a probe into the origin of the new coronavirus was first made by the United States, and Australia soon became the only other country to openly follow suit. US President Donald Trump’s administration has been suggesting that the coronavirus was artificially synthesized at a lab in China and that Beijing failed to act promptly when its own outbreak began late last year.

China has denied both accounts and has reacted strongly to the US and Australia for making such allegations. Beijing has also said that the US and Australia’s calls for a probe are politically motivated and that an investigation of the coronavirus must be purely scientific.

Following Australia’s repeat of the US allegations, China, Australia’s largest trade partner, halted beef imports from Australia’s four largest meat processors and imposed tariffs on imports of barley from the country, giving the appearance of a trade war. Both Beijing and Canberra have denied that any such war is underway between them, though.

Late last month, Beijing lashed out at Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying he deserved “a slap in the face” for trying to blame the COVID-19 pandemic on China.

Australia has also supported a US-backed campaign for Taiwan to join the WHA as an “observer state” in a move condemned by China as a political stunt aimed at promoting Taiwan’s attempted independence. China has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.
The new coronavirus has so far infected over 4,805,430 people and claimed the lives of more than 318,554 others across the world since its emergence in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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