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News Corp takes on Chinese Embassy after being accused of ignorance, prejudice in COVID-19 reporting

News Corp took on Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Sydney after being accused of ignorance, prejudice and arrogance in COVID-19 reporting

News Corp takes on Chinese Embassy after being accused of ignorance, prejudice in COVID-19 reporting
Bengaluru, First Published Apr 7, 2020, 5:42 PM IST
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Sydney’s Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China has written to News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph, accusing it of “ignorance, prejudice and arrogance” in its reporting of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The Daily Telegraph’s editor-at-large, Matthew Benns, posited the communication could be part of a “global propaganda drive” by China in the face of criticism over its handling of the disease.

Also read: COVID-19-affected patients in India are in age group 21-40

In response to the accusations put forward by the Embassy, on Saturday, The Daily Telegraph published a take-down from Tim Blair, which covers everything from alleged organ harvesting, jailing of journalists, civilian executions, and cover-ups.

“The Daily Telegraph this week received a letter from the Australian Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, who took gentle issue with our excellent coverage of the coronavirus crisis,” Blair wrote, before publishing extracts from the letter, and tearing them to shreds.

According to Blair, the letter said: “Recently, The Daily Telegraph has published a number of reports and opinions about China’s response to COVID-19 that are full of ignorance, prejudice and arrogance”.

In response, Blair said on page six of Saturday’s paper: “If a state-owned newspaper in China received this kind of complaint, subsequent days would involve journalists waking up in prison with their organs harvested.”

The Consulate General also put forward the argument that the origin of the virus is a scientific question, the answer to which is still undetermined, and noted the World Health Organisation (WHO) had named the disease COVID-19 – not, for example, the ‘China virus’.

In response to this, Blair came out swinging at the WHO.

“The World Health organisation also appointed Zimbabwean murderer Robert Mugabe as its Goodwill Ambassador and declared on March 2 that the ‘stigma’ of the coronavirus ‘is more dangerous than the virus itself’. The World Health Organisation does a lot of stupid stuff.”

Blair has written in previous columns that the “blame” for COVID-19 lies firmly with Chinese authorities and the WHO.

“Personally, I blame the Chinese Communist government’s lies and the World Health Organisation’s corruption for the initial coronavirus spread. And some blame is reserved too for the Wuhan market vendor who sold that first batch of hot bat soup,” he wrote on March 29.

The week prior, he wrote: “Anyone who believes anything from the Chinese government – about the coronavirus, climate change, last night’s football results or the colour of the sky – is an idiot,” seemingly throwing his support behind US President Donald Trump dubbing the disease the “China virus”.

The Embassy’s letter has subsequently asked: “What is the real motive behind your attempt to repeatedly link the virus to China and even state that the novel coronavirus was ‘made in China’?”

“Our motive is accuracy,” Blair responded.

The letter continued: “Is your judgement based on the wellbeing of the people, or do you have an ideological prejudice?”

To which Blair said: “We will admit to an ideological prejudice against deadly tyranny. It’s a tragic failing on our part.”

The letter further stated: "Since 3 January, China has been updating the WHO and the international community in a timely and transparent manner."

In response Blair said: "On January 14, following 11 days of ‘timely and transparent’ updates, the WHO broadcast this ridiculous Chinese misinformation."

The letter: "The epidemic is spreading rapidly around the globe, and China is doing its utmost to support other severely affected countries."

It's response: "Thousands of Chinese-made coronavirus testing kits and medical masks exported to Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands turned out to be ‘below standard or defective’, according to the BBC.”

“And the ABC this week reported that more than 800,000 masks have been seized by Australian Border Force officers after the masks were “found to be counterfeit or otherwise faulty”.

“Thanks for all your help, guys.”

Continuation of the letter: “Virus respects no borders”.

Blair further questioned: "Why, then, did China close its own borders on March 28 – even while claiming victory over the spread of coronavirus?"

The letter states: "You have repeatedly questioned the WHO’s positive assessment of China's epidemic prevention and control, but surely you know that the WHO is the most authoritative international organization in global public health, with more than 190 members including Australia?"

Blair responds: "Keep an eye on that number, sunshine."

Further in the letter: "In disregard of the authoritative information provided by China and the WHO's professional opinions, you instead quoted several so-called ‘strategic analysts’ …"

The consulate questions: "Were you aware that the institution where these people work have been exposed as long accepting financial support from the US government…?"

Blair's response: "The US last year contributed nearly $900 million to the sacred WHO. Your point, sir?"

Consulate's final statement: "Your recent coverage on the epidemic in China are exaggerated, full of irresponsible rumours and highly politicized."

Blair's response: "Naughty us."

“Please send an official Dr Li Wenliang ‘unfounded and illegal rumour’ denunciation statement so we can sign it and be on our way”.

This is how the letter and response covered everything from alleged organ harvesting, jailing of journalists, civilian executions, and cover-ups, border control, defective testing kits, WHO funding, whistleblowers, misinformation and executions.

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