China, US diplomats clash over human rights, pandemic origin

Top U.S. and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the U.S. to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing Washington of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call Friday that revealed wide divisions in a number of contentious areas, including the curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China because of suggestions that it might have have escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan, where cases were first discovered.

Yang said China was “gravely concerned” over what he called “absurd” stories that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.

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