Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo was sharply criticized by a top Chinese official Thursday after he repeatedly referred to the novel coronavirus this week as the “Wuhan virus.”
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, rebuked the Trump administration’s top diplomat for using the phrase several times Wednesday to describe the deadly virus first discovered in Wuhan, China, which subsequently became the epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that that has killed thousands of people worldwide in recent months.
“We strongly condemn these remarks by Secretary Pompeo,” Mr. Geng said during a press conference, as reported on the ministry’s official website.
Groups including the World Health Organization have explicitly objected to associating the coronavirus with specific countries or “seeking stigmatization,” the site quoted the spokesman as saying.
“However, this American politician continues to defy global consensus, stigmatize China and discredit its epidemic response. The sinister intention behind his attempt is to deflect attention at home and shift the blame to the innocent,” Mr. Geng said, according to the foreign ministry.
“I have to point out that the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the globe and the situation in the U.S. is getting worse,” Mr. Geng added, referring to the infectious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. “Under such circumstances, if a politician keeps provoking political disputes and disrupting international cooperation in combating the virus, instead of focusing on containing the spread at home and contributing to global cooperation, what morality does he have?”
Mr. Pompeo had referred to the “Wuhan virus” at least four times during a press conference held the previous day following a virtual meeting attended by members of the Group of Seven nations.
The World Health Organization has previously stated that guidelines for naming disease mandates that they “not refer to a geographical location” to avoid stigmatizing.
President Trump has repeatedly referred to the “Chinese virus” recently, however, explaining, “It comes from China, that’s why.”
Internationally, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering has documented more than 510,000 cases of COVID-19, including over 81,000 in China and more than 75,000 in the U.S., since the first case was reported in Wuhan on Dec. 31.
More than 22,000 people have died after contracting COVID-19, including over 3,000 in China and over 1,000 in the U.S., according to the university.
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