China on Wednesday expressed serious concern and dissatisfaction with the US over its reported move of allowing American diplomats and their families to leave the country to avoid Beijing's stringent anti-pandemic measures, terming it a confusing decision that will only expose US staff to "much greater risks" of infection. The US State Department is considering plans to approve its embassies and consulates to authorise the departure of their US employees in China, citing reasons for "China's epidemic situation", China's state-run Global Times reported on Tuesday, quoting a source familiar with the matter.
The US move was possibly in response to concerns raised by its diplomats in China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. Asked for his reaction to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that China's anti-virus regulations were in line with international treaties governing the treatment of diplomatic personnel and that the country was undoubtedly the safest country at present.
Evacuating from the safest place in the world will only expose US personnel to much greater risks of infection. The logic behind the US' decision is confusing and hardly justifiable, he said. China has expressed grave concern and dissatisfaction over this to the US side, he said.
We hope the US can observe China's COVID-19 protocols, take China's position and concerns seriously and think carefully about the so-called authorised departure' of diplomatic and consular staff, he said. China in recent weeks has stepped up measures as Beijing and several Chinese cities reported spikes in COVID-19 cases, especially that of Delta and Omicron variants ahead of the Winter Olympics, prompting the officials to test millions to control the spread of the virus.
Defending the stringent measures Zhao said, China's epidemic prevention and control protocols are rigorous and science-based. Our effective measures have well-protected foreign nationals in China. Diplomatic sources here say that there is considerable wariness among foreign missions over China's stringent zero COVID-19 policy enforcing strict travel bans for nearly two years and restricting the movement of foreigners.
Beijing is concerned over the American move as it adds gist to the US, the EU and other western countries' well-publicised plan to boycott the opening ceremony of the February 4 Beijing Winter Olympic games over the allegations of human rights violations against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang province. China is also facing increasing international criticism over its aggressive military actions against Taiwan and in the South China Sea, allegations of human rights violation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet.
China reported over 100 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to China's National Health Commission. Of the 24 locally transmitted cases, Beijing reported 14 infections. As of Tuesday, there were 2,487 patients still under treatment for COVID-19 in hospitals in different cities in the country, the Commission reported on Monday.