A Chinese ambassador concurred with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent remark that President Donald Trump is “turning to racist rhetoric” to distract from criticisms over his administration’s coronavirus response.
China’s ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, was recently “permanently recalled” by the communist Beijing government in what Chinese officials have said is unrelated to the coronavirus crisis. On Friday, he expressed support for remarks made by Clinton, which urged Americans to ignore Trump’s repeated labeling of the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
Clinton accused Trump of ignoring several international health warnings and helping to allow the spread of the COVID-19 illness into the U.S. Clinton argued, and Lin appeared to agree, that the U.S. president is attempting to distract Americans from his administration’s poor response by using divisive labels and honing in on a debate over whether “China virus” is a racist description.
Lin has consistently blasted Trump since he started at the Pretoria ambassador post in August 2017. He accused the president of turning the U.S. into “the enemy of the whole world” over his trade war last August. And Lin more recently has used the Trump administration’s widely criticized coronavirus response to shift accusations of blame away from the Chinese government, which first addressed the COVID-19 outbreak in the Wuhan province last December.
Last week, Trump defended his branding of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” disregarding critics who say the label is xenophobic and racially offensive, and instead focusing solely on the virus’ country of origin China. The Chinese government-run Xinhua News agency also accused Trump of using racism to distract from his “lies and incompetence” in a March 20 tweet.
“The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available, and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis. Don’t fall for it. Don’t let your friends and family fall for it,” Clinton, who was Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 presidential election, tweeted Wednesday.
“It is true. Justice always speak loudly,” Chinese ambassador Lin Songtian replied, sharing a screenshot of Clinton’s tweet and a China News article highlighting her “racist rhetoric” critique of Trump.
Lin prompted international speculation after senior officials in South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation in China told news outlets he was suddenly being “recalled” to Beijing for unclear reasons. South Africa’s Daily Maverick newspaper reported Friday that Lin could leave as early as Monday, but Chinese officials have suggested he is being promoted rather than punished. The publication noted “he has no doubt pleased his Beijing superiors” by using his position to frequently criticize the U.S. response to the coronavirus.
Trump defended his use of the term “Chinese virus” to CNN reporters last Wednesday: “It’s not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate… I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know China tried to say at one point … that it was caused by American soldiers. That can’t happen, it’s not gonna happen, not as long as I’m president. It comes from China,” the president said.
The Chinese ambassador to South Africa shot back at Trump’s March 17 use of the term “Chinese virus” during his White House address: “When the flu broke out in US, we never called it “American flu”. Unfortunately American is American! Some US politicians’ blame game by calling it “Chinese virus” is groundless and unacceptable. Scientists with justice in the world will show us the evidence of its true origin.”
Clinton, for her part, has blasted the Trump administration’s coronavirus response as inept and accused his administration of ignoring warnings in order to prop up the U.S. economy.
“The Trump administration was told in January that coronavirus was likely to become a pandemic. They refused to act for fear of spooking the markets, losing weeks of time to prepare that we won’t get back,” Clinton tweeted Saturday morning, sharing a Washington Post report about unheeded warnings given to the Trump administration.
Newsweek reached out to the White House Saturday for comment.