China sought to encourage positive Covid-19 comments, says Germany

Benign statement on handling of pandemic pursued by Beijing, but without success

Medical workers in protective clothing in Suifenhe, China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province. Photograph: Getty

Medical workers in protective clothing in Suifenhe, China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province. Photograph: Getty

 

Chinese diplomats approached German government officials in an attempt to encourage them to make positive statements on how Beijing is handling the coronavirus pandemic, the German interior ministry said in a letter this month.

“The German government is aware of individual contacts made by Chinese diplomats with the aim of effecting positive public statements on the coronavirus management by the People’s Republic of China,” said the letter.

“The federal government has not complied with these requests.”

The letter was dated April 22nd and was sent to Green Party member of parliament Margarete Bause in response to her question on whether Chinese diplomats had contacted German officials with the goal of encouraging them to make positive remarks.

The comments by the interior ministry were first reported by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. The paper cited the Chinese embassy in Berlin as rejecting the report as untrue and irresponsible.

The embassy could not be reached for comment on Sunday and the Chinese foreign ministry did not respond comment.

In the letter, the interior ministry said the government had acknowledged China’s efforts to contain the pandemic, particularly since January 23rd, even without being asked to do so by Beijing.

It went on to say that Berlin had told the Chinese government it believed transparency was important for combating the pandemic, without saying whether it believed the Chinese government had been transparent or not.

The ministry did not give a time frame for the contacts.

On Friday, it was reported that China sought to block a European Union report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, according to four sources and diplomatic correspondence.

The issue has also been a flashpoint between the United States and China – with officials on both sides trading allegations of hiding information. – Reuters

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