China fires back at US allegations of lack of transparency

The World Health Organization team is briefed outside of the Huanan Seafood Market on the third day of their field visit in Wuhan, China. The market, which had a cluster of cases at the start of the outbreak, was initially suspected as the place where people first became infected. The discovery of earlier cases has all but ruled out that theory, but researchers still want to know how this early cluster happened. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The World Health Organization team is briefed outside of the Huanan Seafood Market on the third day of their field visit in Wuhan, China. The market, which had a cluster of cases at the start of the outbreak, was initially suspected as the place where people first became infected. The discovery of earlier cases has all but ruled out that theory, but researchers still want to know how this early cluster happened. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BEIJING – China fired back at the U.S. on Sunday over allegations from the White House that Beijing withheld some information about the coronavirus outbreak from World Health Organization investigators.

In a statement on Saturday, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington had “deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them.”

“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government," he said, referring to the WHO mission investigating the origins of the pandemic in the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected late in 2019.

"To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak." Sullivan's statement said.

China responded Sunday with a statement from its Washington Embassy that said the U.S. had already “gravely damaged international cooperation on COVID-19" and was now “pointing fingers at other countries who have been faithfully supporting the WHO and at the WHO itself.”

While it welcomed President Joe Biden's decision to reverse the Trump administration's move to leave the WHO, China hopes the U.S. will “hold itself to the highest standards, take a serious, earnest, transparent and responsible attitude, shoulder its rightful responsibility, support the WHO’s work with real actions and make due contribution to the international cooperation on COVID-19," the statement said.

Following allegations of Chinese withholding of data in The New York Times and other media outlets, investigation team member Peter Daszak tweeted, “This was NOT my experience on @WHO mission."

“As lead of animal/environment working group I found trust & openness w/ my China counterparts. We DID get access to critical new data throughout. We DID increase our understanding of likely spillover pathways," Daszak tweeted.