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Europe ‘wary of confronting China over deaths’

Excerpts from BBC:

“China is continuing to under-report the true levels of deaths from Covid-19, national security officials in London and Washington believe.

But European officials are wary about directly challenging China over the figures, sources told the BBC. That concern also extends to confronting Beijing over an information campaign to improve its standing and distract from blame in the crisis.

China has denied allegations of a cover up, saying it has been transparent about its efforts to battle the virus.

On 17 April, officials in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak is believed to have begun, raised the death toll from Covid-19 by 50 per cent overnight. They said the sharp increase reflected updated reporting and deaths outside hospitals, insisting there had been no cover-up.

But several officials in London and Washington say they still believe the picture is not an accurate reflection of the death toll, and that the central government in Beijing knows this. They do not however believe China knows the real figure for certain and is hiding it.

Western intelligence officials say that figures underplaying the toll are likely pushed up the chain from a local level by Chinese officials nervous of revealing the full truth, and these make their way up to Beijing, with officials at the top fully aware of this problem occurring along the chain.

“It is impossible to know what the figures are in China. What we do know is the figures are very likely to be wrong,” Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told the BBC.

Governments in Europe have been wary of engaging in a diplomatic row with China at a sensitive time. One UK official, who like others declined to speak on the record, said there was a “nervousness” about confronting China and that relations were “delicate”.

Read the whole story here.


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