British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is furious with Beijing for spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, including that American soldiers may have introduced it in China, and said there would be a “reckoning” when the pandemic ends, according to a report.
“There is a disgusting disinformation campaign going on and it is unacceptable. They [the Chinese government] know they have got this badly wrong and rather than owning it, they are spreading lies,” the Sunday Mail reported, citing a source.
Earlier this month, China began pushing an unfounded conspiracy theory that members of the US Army brought the virus to Wuhan last October when they attended the Military World Games.
The first cases of the virus were reported in Wuhan in December.
The report also said scientists have told Johnson that they believe Beijing is downplaying the number of coronavirus cases in the country “by a factor of 15 to 40 times.”
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said reports coming out of China were vague about the virus.
“It was the case … [that] the first case of coronavirus in China was established in December of last year, but it was also the case that some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this,” he said.
A government official said “it is going to be back to the diplomatic drawing board after this,” the report said. “Rethink is an understatement.”
Another said, “there has to be a reckoning when this is over.”
The newspaper said Johnson’s government was so incensed over China’s disinformation campaign that he could scuttle the deal to allow Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company, to develop Britain’s 5G network.
“We’re allowing companies like Huawei not just into our economy, but to be a crucial part of our infrastructure. This needs to be reviewed urgently, as does any strategically important infrastructure that relies on Chinese supply chains,” reported the Sunday Mail, quoting a cabinet minister.