Emails recently obtained by Judicial Watch show how U.S. officials scrambled over reports that the Chinese government was requiring anal swab tests to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The communications were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State.
“It took six months and a federal lawsuit to confirm that our embassy in Beijing was concerned about the Chinese government’s invasive anal swab and other COVID testing of our diplomatic personnel – at that as many as two people were asked to submit to a test,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.
He added: “Our diplomatic personnel were harassed in a reprehensible way by the Chinese government, and the Biden administration seems to have done little in response – except to cover it up.”
A State Department spokesperson told the DCNF that some U.S. personnel were “subjected” to the anal swabs “in error.”
“The State Department never agreed to this method of testing and protested directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) when we learned that some U.S. Mission personnel were subjected to it,” the spokesperson said. “We have received assurances from the MFA that this testing was conducted in error and that diplomatic personnel are exempt from this requirement.”
On Jan. 25, an official at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent an email about COVID-19 testing procedures, noting that China was conducting tests of its citizens “that are not in line with our diplomatic rights or our general agreement with the host government.” The official proceeded to asked if anyone was asked to take the anal swab test.
“There’s no good way to ask this, but has any health authority asked you or your spouse to conduct an anal swab test? The embassy obviously does not authorize or permit this type of testing on diplomats but others have been asked so I need to verify everyone’s experience,” the official wrote.
The official added: “Sorry for the strange questions, but I was directed by embassy management to survey our people and ensure we are not being asked to participate in the more invasive testing procedures.”
The only test the U.S. government agreed to were swabs of the nose and throat, according to the email.
One response to the email read: “No, I have had no unusual requests. I received a nasal and throat swab when I arrived in Shanghai and just a throat swab before departing.”
In a separate email chain with the subject line “Test,” a sender wrote, “[Redacted] please call me at your convenient time [redacted]. Below text message came from [redacted]. This is not good!”
A recipient responded, “This is becoming so non diplomatic status testing. Disgusting. I hope the GSO [general services officer] and VIP Beijing visits can do something about this. I am so disgusted right now.”
On Jan. 27, the sender wrote, “At this point, if they will insist the anal test, we would like to just go back to the States.”
A recipient sent an email to the original email chain on Jan. 27, saying someone was being asked to do an anal swab test.
“Team – FYI. [Redacted] being asked for anal swab and environmental test. Can Housing contact [redacted]? I’ll have VIP contact FAO ASAP,” the recipient wrote.
On March 4, an embassy official sent an email inquiring about reports that travelers flying into Shanghai were required to take certain tests, including an anal swab if over 5 people on their flight test positive for COVID-19. “I hadn’t heard this rule before,” the official wrote.
A recipient responded, “VIP – please check with FAO again on this. Seems to be a CDC rule and given our history with close contacts and following hotel separations, want to make sure the MFA/FAO understand this is not acceptable for our people regardless of the reason.”
The recipient responded that close contact required a hotel quarantine and an additional nose or throat swab.
A State Department email replied on March 5, “Just checked with my contact from the PEK [Beijing International Capital Airport] customs. Airport only does nasal swab and throat swab. According to some Chinese social media, international travelers are required to get anal tests during centralized quarantine. It could happen on Day 3, Day 7, Day 14 or Day 21. Some people were tested once and some were twice. Samples were collected by medical staff or travelers themselves or from a fecal sample.”
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