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Chinese official spreads conspiracy theory "US Army" brought coronavirus to Wuhan

Global coronavirus cases exceed 114,000
Global coronavirus cases exceed 114,000 03:07

A Chinese official is accusing he American military of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus originated. Lijian Zhao, a spokesperson for China's ministry of foreign affairs, tweeted out the conspiracy theory as U.S. lawmakers continued to fault China's handling of the outbreak. 

Zhao shared a clip of CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield's testimony during the House Oversight Committee hearing from Wednesday. In the video, Redfield had said some patients who were thought to have died of influenza were posthumously diagnosed with coronavirus, which has some similar symptoms as the flu. Zhao apparently believes this is enough reason to be suspicious.

"CDC was caught on the spot," Zhao wrote in the tweet. "When did patient zero begin in 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 owe us an explanation!"

According to The New York Times, some U.S. troops participated in the Military World Games in Wuhan, China, in October. But that was months before the first cases of illness emerged there is no evidence any service member carried the coronavirus before the visit. 

CBS News' Christina Ruffini reports that the U.S. State Department summoned the Chinese ambassador to express its displeasure with the false claims, and gave him "a very stern representation of the facts."

"State officials say the action was taken to send a signal. 'We wanted to put the government on notice we won't tolerate it for the good of the Chinese people and the world'," Ruffini tweeted.

In his tweets, Lijian also deflected criticism of China and aimed it back at the U.S. He said China took decisive steps to buy the world time by placing huge swaths of its population under quarantine.

Lijian's tweets come as some U.S. officials have branded the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus." In his Oval Office address Wednesday night, President Trump made a point of referring to it as a "foreign virus" that "started in China." 

Senator Tom Cotton, who accused China of "lying" about the outbreak, also raised a conspiracy theory during a Fox News interview, suggesting the virus may somehow be connected to a lab located near the Wuhan market where health experts traced the virus to its origins in wild animals.

"We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China's only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases," Cotton said. "Now we don't have evidence that this disease originated there, but because of China's duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning we need to at least ask the question."

More than half of the roughly 128,000 people who've caught the virus worldwide have already recovered. More than 4,700 people have died, including at least 42 in the U.S.

–Christina Ruffini contributed reporting

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