BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday dismissed complaints from two U.S. congressmembers over the quarantining of American diplomats and their family members under the country’s strict COVID-19 regulations.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China “adopts a science-based and effective epidemic prevention protocol for both Chinese and foreigners coming to China without discrimination.”
The policy, Mao said, is “open and transparent.” Regardless of their status, all U.S. visitors accepted China’s epidemic policies, including post-entry medical observation and health monitoring, Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.
“Such statements by individual U.S. lawmakers are really absurd and completely groundless,” Mao said, adding that the congressmen appeared to be showing signs of “China phobia.”
Republicans James Comer of Kentucky and Michael T. McCaul of Texas wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday asking for clarification on the quarantining of U.S. diplomats and family members by the People's Republic of China.
“U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing recently confirmed that 16 U.S. diplomats and their family members — throughout the pandemic — have been involuntarily held in quarantine camps and subjected to strict confinement measures with no definitive release date," their letter stated.
“Committee Republicans are concerned that U.S diplomats could be or have been pressured to surrender intelligence while detained in PRC quarantine camps," it said. “The PRC poses a geopolitical threat to the United States and should not be coercing U.S. diplomats into and surveilling them under draconian quarantine policies."
The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment on the letter on Friday.
The letter followed an article in the Washington Post newspaper in July which cited the embassy saying 16 U.S. diplomatic personnel or their family members had “been sent, against their will, to Chinese government medical quarantine centers since the pandemic began."
It said the State Department concluded that was a “clear violation" of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and that U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns has since secured a promise that U.S. diplomats and their family members would be allowed to quarantine in their homes or at the embassy rather at government-run isolation centers notorious for poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of privacy.
Mao said she was not aware to the situation of the 16 Americans mentioned or how the number had been arrived at.
“It is even more nonsense to say that China obtained intelligence from the U.S. through quarantine," she said.