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China blasts US accusation of hacking COVID-19 research

China says the United States is smearing the Asian country after Washington alleged that Chinese hackers were attempting to break into US COVID-19 research on developing a vaccine against the contagious disease.

The US claimed on Wednesday that Beijing-linked hackers were trying to capture data from its research on ways of treating COVID-19-hit patients and developing vaccines for the disease.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) alleged that China’s purported efforts posed a “significant threat” to the US response to the pandemic, fueling already heightened tensions between the two countries. 

On Thursday, Beijing strongly rejected the allegations, condemning them as slander.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to such smearing,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian at a regular press conference in Beijing, adding, “Judging from past records, the US has carried out the largest cybertheft operations worldwide.”

Zhao stressed that China has significant achievements of its own in the fight against the disease.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by a new coronavirus, was transmitted from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has affected 213 countries and territories across the globe and infected more than 4,464,700 people and killed over 299,420 so far.

The Chinese government introduced draconian measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus and has largely managed to contain the disease.

China is “also leading the world in COVID-19 vaccine research and treatment”, and therefore has more reason to worry about cyber espionage itself, Zhao further said.

The spokesman also said the Asian country has cracked down on cyber-hacking, and that any action online to sabotage efforts against the COVID-19 should be denounced by people around the world.

Zhao lambasted President Donald Trump, who recently referred to the disease as the “plague from China”, saying the US should stop blaming and discrediting others, and instead, concentrate on their own prevention and control work.