China has denied that its zero-Covid policies violate the rights of US diplomats, and reiterated that foreign envoys must comply with Chinese rules. In response to a column in The Washington Post that strongly criticised Chinese pandemic controls being applied to diplomats, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that the measures were to protect the health of Chinese citizens and foreign residents alike. These measures had helped to ensure that China maintained one of the lowest rates of infection and death in the world, Zhao said, so that all Chinese and foreign residents in China had enjoyed maximum protection. Additionally, he said, despite more than two years of Covid-19, the Chinese economy and society have functioned well, which also served the interests of people and businesses of both domestic and foreign owners. In the opinion piece, which was posted on the Post ’s site on Thursday, columnist Josh Rogin contended that the harsh policies, including rolling lockdowns and forced quarantines, had “trampled on the rights of US diplomats to an extent previously unknown” and forced them to “live in constant fear”. Rogin noted that US diplomats and their family members are supposed to be immune from being arbitrarily detained by the nations where they work, and said that the State Department had concluded that Covid-related detention in quarantine centres violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Rogin said that 16 American diplomatic personnel or their family members have been sent against their will to Chinese government medical quarantine centres “which can resemble prisons”, and that some US diplomats were so afraid that they petitioned the State Department to leave China. Zhao said that “China has always provided them [foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in China, including the US] with the necessary assistance and facilities to perform their duties in accordance with the relevant provisions and spirit of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations”. China considers further easing Covid quarantine rules He added: “Foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in China are obliged to respect and comply with the Chinese regulations on pandemic prevention, which is also an obligation to comply with the two conventions I just mentioned.” Early this year, the US embassy in Beijing requested Washington approve departures of some of consular staff and their families, as the Chinese capital ramped up Covid-19 containment protocols ahead of the Winter Olympics in February. Beijing protested over the news at that time. In April, when a new outbreak occurred in Shanghai and the city introduced a weeks-long lockdown, the US State Department announced voluntary “authorised departure” from China of personnel from its consulate in Shanghai to avoid the measures. Zhao denied the accusation of rights infringement, noting that more than 1,000 US diplomats and their family members had come to China since June 2020. Despite the risk of overseas visitors bringing infections with them, Zhao said, China had provided much convenience for US diplomats and their families to come, live in China, perform their duties, visit their families, and reside with them and leave – which was, he said, “evident to all embassies and consulates in China”.