Beijing has denied that it asked US diplomats to take anal swabs to test for Covid-19.

Zhao Lijian. Photo: China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Office, via Twitter.

“To my knowledge … China has never required U.S. diplomatic staff stationed in China to conduct anal swab tests,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the press on Thursday.

The denial came after VICE World News reported on Wednesday that US diplomats had complained about being subjected to the procedure.

The report cited a US State Department official saying that China had pledged to stop using such swabs on their diplomats after administering them in error: “The State Department never agreed to this kind of testing and protested directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when we learned that some staff were subject to it,” a State Department spokesperson told VICE World News on Wednesday. “We have instructed staff to decline this test if it is asked of them, as was done in the past.”

Last month, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s You’an Hospital, told CCTV that the anal swabs method “can increase the detection rate of infected people” as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.