Beijing: China on Friday distanced itself from a tweet put out by one of its officials alleging that the US Army may have brought the deadly coronavirus to Wuhan.
Sharing the conspiracy theory with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had aired a video of Robert Redfield, the director for the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), addressing a US Congressional committee on March 11.
In the clip, Redfield said some influenza deaths in the US were later identified as cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus which had hit the Chinese province of Wuhan.
Redfield didn't say when those people had died or over what time period, but Zhao pointed to his remarks in support of the theory that the coronavirus did not originate in Hubei province in central China.
He did not offer any further evidence for the claim. "US CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in the US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.
Be transparent! Make public your data! US owes us an explanation!" Zhao tweeted. On Friday, Zhao's fellow Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said there were "varied opinions" on the origin of the virus in the international community.
"China always considers this a scientific question, which should be addressed in a scientific and professional manner," he said, avoiding questions on whether Zhao's tweet represented the Chinese government's official position.
Sections of Chinese social media appear to have taken the cue and launched a concerted campaign to question the origin of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 125,000 people globally.