France summons Chinese ambassador after diplomat over controversial Covid-19 comments

France summons Chinese ambassador after Paris embassy diplomat accuses French care workers of ‘leaving residents to die of hunger and disease’ in new attack on West’s coronavirus response

  • Ambassador Lu Shaye slammed the West in an essay on the embassy’s website
  • French Foreign Minister has summoned the Chinese envoy for the comments 
  • Lu Shaye suggested the West has let the elderly starve in care homes and that governments were prepared to let the public die for herd immunity to take root
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

France’s foreign minister summoned the Chinese envoy today after the embassy published a second article on its website criticising Western handling of the coronavirus crisis. 

‘I made clear my disapproval of certain recent comments when the ambassador… was summoned this morning,’ Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a ministry statement, adding that the remarks were not in line with the ‘quality of the bilateral relationship’ between the two countries. 

The latest comments on the embassy’s website, which in part suggested Western countries had left their pensioners to die in nursing homes, come after France ordered millions of masks from China to curb a shortage in the country.   

French President Emmanuel Macron (right) and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (left) visit the Crisis and Support Center at the French Foreign Affairs ministry, at Quai DOrsay, in Paris, on April 3, 2020

Pictured: The comments made by Beijing's Ambassador to France Lu Shaye regarding the West's management of the coronavirus crisis

Pictured: The comments made by Beijing’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye regarding the West’s management of the coronavirus crisis

China’s embassy to France has been leading a high-profile public relations campaign in recent weeks to vaunt the country’s success in largely quelling the coronavirus while criticising the handling of the crisis by Western countries.

On Sunday, the Chinese embassy published on its website a long text titled ‘Restoring distorted facts – Observations of a Chinese diplomat posted to Paris’.

The diplomat, who was not named in the text, sharply criticised the Western response to the coronavirus outbreak as laggardly.

But most pointedly, the diplomat accused workers at nursing homes in France of ‘abandoning their posts overnight… and leaving their residents to die of hunger and disease’.

That comment sparked fury across the political spectrum, with people leaping to the defence of nursing home workers.

Shaye published another article today, saying that ‘the French government, business community and the general public are generally friendly to China. 

The three words I heard the most are ‘support’, ‘confidence’ and ‘cooperation’.’

But, he went on to say that ‘certain French media, journalists and so-called ‘Chinese experts’ have occasionally produced some dissonant voices’.  

Pictured: A 2019 photo of China's Ambassador to France Lu Shaye, posing during a photo session in Paris

Pictured: A 2019 photo of China’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye, posing during a photo session in Paris

In Sunday’s piece, Shaye slammed the herd immunity plan, the same mooted by the UK government at the start of the pandemic, and suggested the public would pay for buoying the economy with their lives. 

He went on to condemn the ‘grabbing’ of PPE between nations, which was referred to as ‘modern-day piracy’ by a German minister after the US intercepted a plane-load of equipment in Berlin last week.  

China has won plaudits from some in Europe for generous donations of medical aid but others have accused it of cynically exploiting the donations for propaganda purposes.

Some experts have also accused the country of failing to rapidly disclose information after the virus first broke out in China, thus undermining the global response.

‘There is no room for polemics and France is working strongly in favour of unity, solidarity and the greatest international cooperation,’ Le Drian said.

‘The acts of reciprocal solidarity between China and France bear witness to our desire to face this in a coordinated way,’ he said. 

Lu Shaye earned a reputation as an ‘outspoken’ and ‘strikingly undiplomatic’ diplomat at his previous posting in Canada, according to the country’s Globe and Mail newspaper.