China hits back after Jason Kenney says the country is due for a 'great reckoning'

Earlier this week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sharply criticized China's handling of the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, warning the country would soon face "great reckoning" for how it handled the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Alberta's premier criticized China's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak on Wednesday

The Chinese consulate in Calgary is hitting back against Alberta Premier Jason Kenney after he sharply criticized the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this week. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

The Chinese consulate in Calgary is hitting back against recent criticisms by Premier Jason Kenney, suggesting Alberta's premier is fighting with "slander and stigma."

"What a pity when we read the 'slamming' remarks of Mr. Premier against China. A large body of facts and data suggest that China did not play down, obfuscate or cover up the dangers posed by the novel coronavirus when it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan," the consulate said in a statement.

"If Mr. Premier did not deliberately turn his head away, these facts and evidence are presenting themselves crystal clearly before his eyes."

On Wednesday, Kenney sharply criticized China's handling of the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, warning the country would soon face a "great reckoning" for how it handled the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

"And I do not think we should just forget this and walk past it," Kenney told a virtual roundtable hosted by the Washington-based Canadian American Business Council. "There must be some kind of a reckoning. There must be some accountability."

The statement from the Chinese consulate goes on to say that Kenney should be ready to sustain criticism of his own handling of the pandemic.

"If there is a comparison between what he has done during the outbreak with what Wuhan has, he will not look smarter," the statement reads, adding that China aims to test every resident of Wuhan for its safe reopening and suggesting China would be happy to share advice with Alberta on how it quickly built two new hospitals.

"A final friendly reminder for the Premier: You are based in Edmonton, not Ottawa," the statement reads. "And your China-blaming comment might not please Mr. Trump since he will not spare a glance."

Read the consulate's full statement:

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed China for the pandemic over the past number of weeks, referring to it during a White House event as the worst "attack" the United States had ever experienced, beyond even Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

China has fiercely denied charges from the White House and legislators that the country refused to co-operate with the World Health Organization and kept evidence of human-to-human transmission under wraps after COVID-19 was first detected.

Rocky relationship

The Canada-China relationship has been strained since Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver in 2018. 

Canada's initial response to the outbreak seemed to begin to thaw those relations, and Canada's ambassador to China Dominic Barton said in February that his top priority was seeking a reset between the two nations.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Jan. 23, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said Kenney's comments reflected a strategy consistent with conservative thought and wider public opinion in Canada.

"The outlier seems to be the Trudeau government," Bratt said. "[These comments] reflect that a lot of anger that COVID-19 is being blamed on China, but my point is that even before COVID-19, Canada had a lot of issues with China."

Bratt added he saw no problem with Kenney vocalizing his opinions on the Canada-China relationship despite the premier no longer holding a position in the federal government.

According to the results of a study from the Angus Reid Institute released Wednesday, 85 per cent of Canadians say the Chinese government has not been honest or transparent about the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed in Canada, many have also raised concerns about growing anti-Asian and anti-Chinese racism in Canada.

With files from Helen Pike and The Canadian Press

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