Sir John Sawers’ comments came after US President Donald Trump said he would suspend funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO), claiming it had “covered up” the spread of COVID-19. Sir John said it would be more appropriate to criticise Beijing rather than the WHO.
There was a brief period in December and January when the Chinese were indeed concealing information
Sir John Sawers
He told the BBC: “There is deep anger in America at what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China, and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially.
“Intelligence is about acquiring information which has been concealed from you by other states and other actors.
“Now, there was a brief period in December and January when the Chinese were indeed concealing this from the West.”
There are also reports coming out of China that officials failed to pass on warnings to their own citizens even though they knew they were facing an unprecedented health crisis.
Internal papers leaked by a whistleblower claim Chinese leaders covered up their knowledge of a possible coronavirus pandemic for six days after realising the grim situation.
The documents suggest Beijing’s top officials secretly knew they were likely to be dealing with a major health emergency on January 14 but President Xi Jinping only warned the public of the emergency on January 20.
Thousands of people are believed to have contracted the deadly disease during the six days in mid-January when the Government kept the information from them.
Sir John, who has also served as the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, said the pandemic would have an impact on international relations.
He said: “The trends that are underway anyway, the growing dependence on technology, the weakening of international bodies like the United Nations, the shift of economic power to Asia – I think these are all going to move forward more rapidly now as in the context of this pandemic.”
President Trump accused the WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus.
He said his administration would suspend funding of up to £400 million a year for the organisation.
Beijing has also been accused of trying to exploit the global crisis by taking control of companies such as Imagination Technologies and changing the way the internet works.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told Sky News: “We’re seeing quite a lot of action by the Chinese state, or state-owned companies, that seem to be exploiting this moment.
“Companies like Imagination Technologies, it’s been facing a rather hostile change in management in the last few weeks, which happened to coincide not just with the COVID crisis but also the prime minister being taken into hospital and the Easter weekend.”
Are you worried about China’s growing influence? [POLL]
Coronavirus horror: TRUE origin of outbreak revealed[ANALYSIS]
Why didn’t anyone listen? Chilling warning about dangerous Wuhan lab[SPOTLIGHT]
Mr Tugendhat also said he was concerned by Mr Trump’s decision to suspend funding for the WHO.
He said: “I’m concerned by this. This is of course an important time for the WHO to be doing its job.
“I understand his concerns with the way that the WHO has failed to call out China or indeed recognise the success that has been going on in Taiwan amongst other places.”
Source: Read Full Article