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Iran Press TV

Diplomatic spat continues between France and China over COVID-19 response

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 16 April 2020 7:31 AM

A diplomatic spat is widening between France and China over an article on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Paris criticizing the West's handling of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In a French-language article published on the official website of the Chinese diplomatic mission to Paris on Sunday, an unnamed Chinese diplomat said that care workers in Western nursing homes had abandoned "their posts overnight…, leaving their residents to die of hunger and disease."

The article, titled "Restoring distorted facts - Observations of a Chinese diplomat posted to Paris," used the French acronym EHPAD, which is used to refer to those facilities.

The use of that particular word made the French believe that the article was specifically about the facilities in France and triggered fury in the European country, with some trying to defend the care workers.

The French foreign office summoned the Chinese ambassador, Lu Shaye, on Tuesday to "express its deep disapproval."

While details have emerged about the grim situation in at least one nursing home in France amid the coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese Embassy clarified that it had Spain's facilities in mind.

And on Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China "has never issued negative comments on the way France has handled the epidemic."

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

Separately on Wednesday, lawmakers at the French Senate demanded answers at a hearing with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as to why the "fake" article – a part of which also cast them in a bad light – had still been up on the Chinese Embassy's website.

The French legislators were furious at a section in the article that had said they co-signed a disparaging statement about World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accusing him, an Ethiopian, of pro-Chinese bias.

"The WHO has been the subject of a real siege on the part of the Western countries, some even launching ad-hominem attacks against its Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus," the article said.

It said that the French lawmakers allegedly adopted a racist attitude toward the WHO chief when in the joint statement they described him as a "negro."

"The Taiwanese authorities, supported by more than 80 French parliamentarians in a co-signed declaration, even used the word 'negro' to attack him. I still do not understand what could have gone through the heads of all these French elected representatives," the unnamed Chinese diplomat added in the article.

The current spat comes at an awkward timing for the French government, as it has already ordered some 600 million masks from China to compensate for COVID-19-related shortages across France and is still waiting for their delivery.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by the new coronavirus, was transmitted from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has affected 210 countries and territories across the globe, and has so far infected more than 2,084,020 people and killed over 134,670.

Official figures by China's Health Ministry shows that as of Thursday, 82,341 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,342 others have died in China, which introduced strict and exemplary measures to contain the contiguous disease.

France as of Thursday had 147,863 cases and 17,167 deaths. The country is under lockdown until May 11.

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