China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi cast doubt on the origins of COVID-19 on Thursday, August 27, during a press conference in Oslo, Norway.
Speaking in Oslo, the latest stop on his five-nation European tour, Wang said that while China publicly reported the first coronavirus case in December, it's possible the virus originated elsewhere.
“Much information and research indicated that this disease could be tracked in different places, many of which were discovered earlier than the incidents in China,” Wang said, according to South China Morning Post.
“Where did it actually originate? Who was the zero patient? These are scientific questions … that should not be politicized or stigmatized,” he added.
The city of Wuhan in central China was the first to report a cluster of “atypical pneumonia” cases associated with the novel coronavirus. Wuhan, a city of about 11 million people, was placed on strict lockdown several weeks later in response to the emerging coronavirus outbreak.
While Wuhan has managed to successfully curb its COVID-19 outbreak as it continues to spread elsewhere, the city remains closely associated with the disease.
Experts have previously maintained that the zoonotic disease originated in bats and then jumped to humans through an intermediary animal%20is%20only%2075.4%25%2C,%2C%20coyotes%2C%20and%20raccoon%20dogs.), like a civet cat. In May, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control asserted that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market—where the disease was believed to have originated from— was merely a “victim” of the virus spread.
The origin of the novel coronavirus, often referred to as the “Chinese virus” by Trump, has become a major sticking point between Beijing and Washington.
Members of the Trump administration previously claimed there was “enormous evidence” that the new coronavirus was created in a lab in Wuhan, though the U.S. intelligence community said it stood by the “wide scientific consensus” that the deadly virus was of natural origin.
In March, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry took to Twitter to amplify a conspiracy theory alleging that the virus was actually brought to Wuhan by U.S. military servicemen participating in games in October 2019.
In addition to discussing the coronavirus, Wang in his press conference also warned against awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Hong Kong activists.
"In the past, and today, in the future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China's internal affairs,” Wang said when asked how China would react if the prestigious international award was given to someone from Hong Kong.
“This position of the Chinese side is rock-firm and we do not want to see anyone politicizing the Nobel Peace Prize."
In 2010, Chinese prisoner and outspoken critic of Beijing Liu Xiabao was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
Liu’s award strained relations between Norway and China, which normalized in 2016.