China’s ambassador to the UK today accused the British government of ‘over-reacting’ to the coronavirus outbreak as he suggested ministers had unnecessarily sparked public ‘panic’.
Liu Xiaoming criticised the government after earlier this week it suggested all 30,000 UK nationals in China should leave the country if they are able to.
Mr Liu said that while the UK had been helpful in official talks with Beijing he believed the country’s ‘words do not match with the deeds’.
He also appeared to confirm that Boris Johnson is yet to speak or send a message to Chinese premier Xi Jinping about the deadly epidemic.
Today it was revealed that China had complained to Boris Johnson’s father about the Prime Minister’s response to the coronavirus outbreak – according to emails accidentally made public by Stanley Johnson himself.
The Foreign Office has actively urged Britons to leave China in a bid to protect their health amid fears the coronavirus crisis could worsen.
Numerous countries around the world, including the US and Australia, have barred foreign travellers from China but the UK is still permitting arrivals.
Mr Liu told a press conference in London that Beijing believed many countries had ‘over-reacted’ to the outbreak.
He said: ‘It is understandable that there are concerns in the UK and the rest of the world about the epidemic.
‘Some people are worried that it might have a negative effect on China’s economy or even the world economy.
‘There are also over reactions by individual countries, panic among the public and even insulting and discriminatory remarks and behaviour targeting the overseas Chinese community.’
He added: ‘It is our hope that the governments of all countries including the UK should understand and support China’s efforts, respect the professional advice of WHO, avoid overreaction, avoid creating panic and ensure the normal cooperation and exchanges between countries.’
Mr Liu said China had cautioned the UK against issuing the updated travel advice for Britons to leave the country because it believes the coronavirus outbreak is now under control.
The ambassador suggested the UK’s official communications with China did not tally with its actions as he said he would ‘like to see their words… meet their actions’.
His address to the media came after it emerged that China had complained to Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley, about the lack of contact from the PM to Mr Jinping.
Stanley Johnson met Mr Liu on Tuesday to discuss environmental issues but the former subsequently sent an email to environment minister Lord Goldsmith to inform him that the ambassador had expressed concerns that the PM had not sent a personal message of support to Beijing.
The email was made public after Stanley Johnson accidentally copied in the BBC to the exchange.
Mr Liu was asked today if he was unhappy with Mr Johnson’s response to the outbreak.
The ambassador appeared to suggest that the PM was yet to speak to his counterpart about the crisis.
He said: ‘With regard to whether I am satisfied or not satisfied with the British government response, I would say we are very pleased and thankful to British government.
‘Since the outbreak the two governments maintain very close contact. Secretary Raab and Cabinet Secretary Sedwill have had telephone conversations with their counterparts.
‘The British side spoke highly of the prevention and control measures put in by China and also offered to help and we appreciate that.
‘There is no such issue with regard to disappointment, displeasure, discontent with regard to British government’s response.’