China denies criticising France's virus response

Beijing (AFP) –


China on Tuesday denied criticising France's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying there had been "misunderstandings" after French officials summoned the Chinese ambassador in Paris.

"China has never issued negative comments on the way France has handled the epidemic," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing.

"To the contrary, we share the concerns of France, which today faces the serious challenges brought by this epidemic."

China's embassy to France has been leading a high-profile public relations campaign in recent weeks to vaunt the country's success in largely quelling the coronavirus while criticising the handling of the crisis by Western countries.

On Sunday, the Chinese embassy published on its website a long text titled "Restoring distorted facts -- Observations of a Chinese diplomat posted to Paris".

The diplomat, who was not named in the text, sharply criticised the Western response to the coronavirus outbreak as laggardly.

But most pointedly, the diplomat accused workers at nursing homes of "abandoning their posts overnight... and leaving their residents to die of hunger and disease".

That comment sparked fury across the political spectrum in France, with people leaping to the defence of nursing home workers.

The French version of the text used the acronym for French nursing homes, but the Chinese version used a general term for the facilities and the embassy later said it was referring to deaths in Spain.

Zhao said Chinese embassies have been responding to "false information" and "unfounded criticism" of Sino-French cooperation made by some media, experts and Western politicians.

"This is to clarify certain facts, to explain our position of principle, and to preserve the current international cooperation against the epidemic," Zhao said.

"We hope that the French side will dispel these misunderstandings."