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Minister Chen Wen Gives Live Interview on World at One of BBC Radio 4

On 24 April, Minister Chen Wen of the Chinese Embassy in the UK gave a live interview on World at One of BBC Radio 4 hosted by Chris Mason. Chen reiterated China's position, clarified facts and refuted disinformation regarding China's fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

Chen said in response to questioning about China's data that since the outbreak of the virus, China had adopted the most comprehensive, thorough and rigorous efforts in an open, transparent, and responsible way. "The epicenter of COVID-19 was in Wuhan. President Xi Jinping once said, 'if we want to win this battle, we have to win the battle in Wuhan.' So that's why China locked down Wuhan city, a city of 11 million people on January 23. I think that clearly cut down the transmission. That is why we have very efficiently, very rigorously and effectively stopped the spreading of the virus to other countries". During the fight, the Communist party of China has always put people's life and health first and that is why China has been able to achieve so much in a short span of two months, Chen added.

In response to the attempts of calling COVID-19 "Chinese virus" and discrediting China's efforts on the epidemic prevention and control, Chen condemned this as "political virus" and expressed China's firm objection. H1N1 was not called US virus because it broke out in the United States, nor was mad cow disease named after any country, she said. "The WHO's rules have been very clear that we cannot link any specific virus with any specific country, region, animal or institution". Since the COVID-19 outbreak, China has been updating WHO and international community in a timely manner. China was the first country to share the genetic sequence of the virus with the entire world. China was also the first to share its valuable experiences with all the other countries. So far, China has sent medical supplies to more than 150 countries and international organizations in the world.

The Minister said, "What worries me is that despite all these achievements, some people are still pointing fingers at China. Behind the thinking of this kind of unwarranted accusations is deep seated bias against China, against the Chinese system and against the Communist Party of China. This is a stereotyped view of China. Some politicians are even calling for waging a cold war against China. This kind of language is like 'political virus', may be as dangerous as the virus itself, if not more. What we need now is solidarity and cooperation. This is the most powerful weapon in the fight against this epidemic. If we keep on pointing fingers at others, scapegoating, blaming and name-calling, then where is corporation and coordination?"

When answering the questions about the timeline of the epidemic containment in China, Chen said COVID-19 is a new virus and China's response has been exceptional. On 27 December 2019, Dr. Zhang Jixian from Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine firstly reported cases to the local health and medical authorities. From 3 January 2020, China began sending regular updates to the WHO and all the other countries. Also on 11 January, China shared the full genetic sequence with the WHO and globally. Therefore, China's response was quick, efficient and effective. The decision made by the local government to lock down Wuhan was based on science and medical advises. According to the journal Science, the lockdown of Wuhan reduced new cases spreading from China to other countries by 77%. "I think this is quite an achievement. Chinese people have paid a high price for that, made a big sacrifice for that and have bought valuable time for the entire world. So these swift efforts should be recognized, should be appreciated and should not be poured dirty water on," said Chen.

On whether an independent international inquiry should be conducted to establish the cause of the pandemic, Chen said, the origin of the virus is a matter of serious science which should be left to scientists and medical experts, and should not be politicized. "As we are fighting the virus at the moment and concentrating all our efforts on fighting against the virus, why talking about investigation into this? This will divert not only our attention but also divert our resources. And this is clearly a politically motivated initiative. I think no one can agree with this kind of politically motivated investigation. And it will serve nobody any good," she said.

With regards to the safety of "wet markets", the Minister clarified that there isn't such a concept in China. "What China has is farmers market where people can buy fresh fruits and meat. Very few of them also sell live poultry, but not wild animals. This is banned by law. Also, China has already made the law to strictly forbid hunting, trading, transportation and consumption of wild animals."

On the question of the accusation that the virus might have originated from labs in the United States, Chen said, three days ago, according to WHO, 27 scientists issued a statement saying that, based on all the evidence, the virus comes from animals and is not constructed, or manufactured or manipulated in labs. The origin of the virus should be left to scientists and medical experts to find out.

About the effects of the pandemic on China-UK relationship and Huawei's participation in the UK's 5G construction, Chen said China and the UK are working together to combat the pandemic. In a short span of slightly more than one month, President Xi Jinping had two telephone conversations with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the two leaders reached important consensus on working together to fight the virus. China is grateful to Her Majesty The Queen, Prime Minister Johnson and the British people from different walks of life for their support and assistance, including the two shipments of medical supplies when they were most needed in China. "So now when the UK is fighting the virus, we are trying our best to help you. Just a couple of weeks ago, our Shandong joint team was here. They brought to the UK ventilators, PPEs and other medical supplies," she said.

About China-UK relationship after the pandemic, Chen believed that the cooperation will be wider and the mutual understanding will be deeper, including the cooperation on 5G. "Prime Minister Johnson made a very ambitious plan about achieving full coverage of 5G by 2025. And I believe Huawei, which is a good company and has been operating here for 17 years, will help the UK to achieve that goal. I believe the UK government has made the right decision, which is a clear demonstration of openness and independent decision-making," said Chen.

Chen also reiterated China's position when asked to comment on the arrests of so-called "pro-democracy" activists by Hong Kong police and possible discrimination against overseas Chinese nationals during the pandemic.

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