Chinese official who blamed the US for coronavirus walks back claim, says his tweet reflected “the righteous anger of many Chinese people”

Lijian Zhao, the Chinese diplomat who appeared to blame the US for the coronavirus by spreading a fringe conspiracy theory on Twitter is now backpedaling.

Last month, Lijian Zhao tweeted:

2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. 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!

National Review reports China Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian held his first press conference in several weeks on Tuesday, attempting to walk back his earlier claim that the U.S. military had brought the novel coronavirus to the city of Wuhan.

“The virus [is] a scientific question that requires scientific opinions,” Zhao told reporters. He was then asked if he stood behind a March 12 tweet in which he wrote that, “It might be the U.S. Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

“The questions raised on my personal Twitter account are a response to U.S. politicians’ stigmatization of China, which also reflects the righteous anger of many Chinese people over these stigmatizing acts,” Zhao responded.

China blocks Twitter within its borders, although certain citizens and companies may use the app with government approval. Twitter has said that using the platform to claim that the U.S. brought coronavirus to Wuhan does not violate its rules and terms of service.

The Chinese government and state-owned media outlets have repeatedly tried to portray President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” as stigmatizing. On March 17, Trump was asked during a White House press conference whether he thought calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” created a “stigma.”

“No, I don’t think so. I think saying that our military gave it to them creates a stigma,” Trump replied.