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Battling calls for international probe into COVID-19 origin, China says it has no legal basis or utility

Xi's warning came amid China's “deepest economic contraction in nearly a century”, the restructuring of global supply chains and threats to Beijing's colossal Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI), Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

April 27, 2020 / 06:44 PM IST

Fighting back mounting calls for an international enquiry into the origin of the coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan, China on Monday said such a probe has no precedence or legal basis and investigations into such pandemics in the past have not provided any conclusive results.

China came with a nuanced response to calls for a neutral international probe into the origins of the virus which has wrecked havoc across the globe, as a media report quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying that the country must get ready for unprecedented external adversity and challenges in the long run over the COVID-19 crisis.

Xi's warning came amid China's “deepest economic contraction in nearly a century”, the restructuring of global supply chains and threats to Beijing's colossal Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI), Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

Besides US President Donald Trump, who stepped up demand for an investigation into the origin of the virus and whether it escaped from Wuhan Institute of Virology, Britain, Australia and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for more transparency from Beijing on COVID-19 origins.

Answering a spate of questions on China's response and whether it would agree for an independent probe into the origin of the virus later when things settle down, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang played it down saying that the investigations in the past on such viruses achieved little.

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“The origin of the virus is a matter of science and should be studied by scientists and professionals. Such research and conclusive answers can only be drawn after getting mutually reinforcing evidence on epidemiological study and virology studies. It is a very complicated issue often it takes a lot of time and there is a degree of uncertainty,” he said.

“Throughout human history, tracing the origins of many diseases took a dozen years or decades. Some progress was made but a conclusive answer has not been reached,” he said, adding that the work is still going on.

“So there have been arguments and theories put forward but studies in the world have not clearly identified the origin and transmission routes of the virus. So there is no science basis to draw a clear conclusion about the origin of the (past) viruses", he said.

Geng said the aim should be “to find out how it occurs and prevent future damages to mankind. It is not about retribution and or accountability. There is no precedence in the world for this and there is no legal basis.”

The present focus of the international community should be to control the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives.

The coronavirus has infected nearly three million people and claimed over 200,000 lives worldwide.

China's overall death toll stood at 4,633 and confirmed cases reached 82,830.

“Politicising the issue of the origin of the virus goes against the spirit of science. It disrupts international cooperation and the mutual trust and will not help with global cooperation to fight the virus”, he said.

Brushing aside the demand of enquiry by some US politicians, Geng said besides sharing genome sequence of coronavirus with various countries, China made an important contribution to the world by sharing its experience with various countries in the world.

“Still some people are hyping up the so-called investigation that is inconsistent with the international cooperation and their palatial manoeuvring will not succeed,” he said.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.

first published: Apr 27, 2020 06:38 pm