Chinese officials praised the country's response to the coronavirus crisis at a news conference today -- but sidestepped questions about the death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang.
The virus, which has killed 636 people in mainland China, can be "prevented, contained, and cured," said Xie Feng, commissioner of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong.
"It is the strength of China’s system that reflects such confidence," he added.
He emphasized China's speed in responding to the outbreak, claiming "governments at all levels in China were immediately mobilized."
Fact check: In the weeks after the virus was first detected, authorities clamped down with knee-jerk censorship. Communist Party officials downplayed the severity of the virus, police targeted "rumormongers" like Li Wenliang, and online censors deleted anything that questioned the official line.
As the crisis has worsened, it has become clear that the failure to take quick action likely undermined any chance of containing the virus.
On Li Wenliang: When asked whether the government should apologize for the death of Li Wenliang, Xie Feng didn't answer directly, only reading out a brief statement from the Wuhan government that expressed "deepest condolences" to Li's family.
On censorship: Despite heavy anger from the Chinese public against the government and its censors, Xie Feng claimed there was freedom of speech in mainland China.
”The Chinese enjoy freedom of speech and access to information according to the law," he said. “If you go online you can see how freely and (actively) people online engage in lively discussions about the epidemic."