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The Chinese national flag flies at half-mast at the Chinese embassy in Paris on April 4 to mourn those who died of Covid-19. Photo: Xinhua

France summons Chinese ambassador after coronavirus comments spark outrage

  • Online post by unnamed diplomat claimed French nursing home workers were ‘abandoning posts’ and leaving residents to ‘die of hunger and disease’
  • Embassy in Paris has been leading campaign to vaunt Beijing’s success in quelling outbreak while criticising handling of crisis by Western countries

The French foreign ministry said on Tuesday it had summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest a string of controversial comments by Beijing’s embassy in Paris on the coronavirus.

“I made clear my disapproval of certain recent comments when the ambassador … was summoned this morning,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a ministry statement, adding that the remarks were not in line with the “quality of the bilateral relationship” between France and China.

China’s embassy to France has been leading a high-profile public relations campaign in recent weeks to vaunt the country’s success in largely quelling the coronavirus while criticising the handling of the crisis by Western countries.

On Sunday, the Chinese embassy published on its website a long text titled “Restoring distorted facts – Observations of a Chinese diplomat posted to Paris”.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a store window in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The diplomat, who was not named in the text, sharply criticised the Western response to the coronavirus outbreak as laggardly.

But most pointedly, the diplomat accused workers at nursing homes in France of “abandoning their posts overnight … and leaving their residents to die of hunger and disease”.

That comment sparked fury across the political spectrum, with people leaping to the defence of nursing home workers.

China has won plaudits from some in Europe for generous donations of medical aid but others have accused it of cynically exploiting the donations for propaganda purposes.

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Some experts have also accused the country of failing to rapidly disclose information after the virus first broke out in China, thus undermining the global response.

“There is no room for polemics and France is working strongly in favour of unity, solidarity and the greatest international cooperation,” Le Drian said.

“The acts of reciprocal solidarity between China and France bear witness to our desire to face this in a coordinated way,” he said.

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