China’s ambassador to the UK urges global solidarity in virus fight
Clive Cookson in London
Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, held an unusual press conference on Thursday to urge global solidarity in the fight against coronavirus.
Speaking in his London embassy’s marble-floored briefing room, decorated with red Chinese lanterns, Mr Liu determinedly emphasised the positive and downplayed criticisms of his country’s response to the epidemic.
“With broad support from the international community we will beat the virus,” he said – going on to quoted a Chinese saying: “One people of one mind can move Mount Tai.”
While emphasising the seriousness with which his government is taking the epidemic, Mr Liu pointed out the mortality rate from the new virus was “very low” at 2.1 per cent, compared with Ebola (40 per cent) and Sars (10 per cent). He then cited the latest statistics on influenza in the US, where 19m people have been ill and 10,000 have died of flu this season, adding “This is more serious than coronavirus.”
“The number of cured coronavirus patients is rising and we are fully confident in beating the virus,” he said.
Mr Liu conceded that “over-reactions among the public” to the epidemic had caused some “insulting and discriminatory remarks targeting the overseas Chinese community” in the UK and elsewhere. But he said the overwhelming feeling was supportive of China. To prove the point, he played a sentimental video of schoolchildren in Belfast singing songs of solidarity in the face of the epidemic.
At the press conference Mr Liu was asked about reports of Boris Johnson’s father Stanley claiming that Chinese officials were “concerned” the prime minister has failed to send a personal message of condolence in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Mr Liu did not respond directly but he insisted that Mr Johnson enjoyed good relations with Xi Jinping, China’s president.
“At the Chinese New Year reception at Number 10, we had a good conversation,” Mr Liu said. “I conveyed greetings from our president and prime minister, and he told me he is still committed to the golden era of British-Chinese relations. The channel of communications between the British and Chinese governments is very good.”
The ambassador said he had asked the UK foreign office to review its advice to Britons to leave China. “We did tell them that overreaction is not helpful.”