INTERNATIONALTOP NEWS

Chris Patten urges UK to investigate origins of Covid in China

Britain

There is an “overwhelming case” to send a multilateral mission to Wuhan to investigate the coronavirus’s origins and spread, the former British governor to Hong Kong has told Dominic Raab.

Chris Patten wrote to the foreign secretary this week to raise his concern about “two issues that will affect us and the rest of the world for some time to come”: the Chinese government’s initial cover-up of the outbreak, and its apparent taking advantage of the pandemic to “turn the screws on Hong Kong”.

Patten told Raab he was concerned to see China’s ambassador to the UK engaging in “wolf diplomacy” by denying there had been a cover-up about the origins and early spread of the virus and implying that “respected politicians” in the UK and abroad were “peddling lies and disinformation”.

He said there was an overwhelming case in support of “establishing as soon as possible a multilateral expert mission to Wuhan to find out exactly what happened there”.

“Since Chinese communists are adamant that they have nothing to hide, they would presumably welcome such an inquiry,” Patten wrote.

The UK Foreign Office has been contacted for comment.

On Thursday a vice-foreign minister for China, Le Yucheng, said the government “resolutely opposes” an international investigation, which he said would be “politicised” and aimed at stigmatising China.

On Wednesday Britain’s ambassador to the US, Karen Pierce, backed calls by the US and Australia for an inquiry, but said containing the outbreak was the first priority and such inquiries would come later.

It came after the UK foreign affairs parliamentary committee asked the government whether it planned to “hold China accountable” by making representations at gatherings of WHO, G7, or G20 members.

In his letter, Patten said the pandemic raised questions about the breach of Chinese obligations to the international health regulations of 2005 and as a member of the World Health Organization.

“I want to make clear straight away that Britain and other countries should have no argument with China and the Chinese people,” he said, praising the medical staff who fought the virus from the early stages.

“The issue is not our relationship with China. It is our relationship with the dangerous and immoral Communist party. In Wuhan the Communist party used the police to try and shut the doctors up. Totalitarian regimes always rely on secrecy and mendacity.”

Patten also urged Britain to step in on the deteriorating political situation in Hong Kong, where Beijing representatives and supporters have alarmed observers with intrusions on the city’s semi-autonomy.

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