Mystery ailment leads US to evacuate more workers from China
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has evacuated several more government workers out of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou after medical testing revealed they might have been affected by unexplained health incidents that have already hurt U.S. personnel in Cuba, the State Department said Wednesday.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said “a number of individuals” have been brought to the U.S. They are in addition to a U.S. worker in Guangzhou who was evacuated earlier, as the Trump administration had already disclosed.
The new evacuations come after the U.S. sent a medical team to Guangzhou to screen American government workers. The team arrived earlier this week, and Nauert said the medical screenings were ongoing. She said they are being offered to “any personnel who have noted concerning symptoms or wanted baseline screening.”
A U.S. official said the evacuated Americans are being brought for testing to the University of Pennsylvania. That’s where doctors have been treating and studying patients evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly and requested anonymity.
It wasn’t clear whether the incidents occurred in the consulate or at the homes of diplomats and other employees, many of them located in luxury high rises.
The China incidents have raised fears the unexplained incidents that started in Cuba in 2016 have expanded. The U.S. government has deemed those incidents “specific attacks” on American workers but hasn’t publicly identified a cause or culprit. Most of the incidents were accompanied by bizarre, unexplained sounds that initially led U.S. investigators to suspect a sonic attack.
The American government worker who was removed from China earlier reported “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” China said last month that it had found no explanation.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China had “said all the right things and have demonstrated their willingness to help us identify the vector which led to this medical incident.”
The China incidents affect one of the most important of the seven U.S. diplomatic outposts in the country. The Guangzhou consulate opened months after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington in 1979 and moved to its new purpose-built facility in 2013.
It serves four southern provinces with a combined population of more than 204 million and processes more than 1 million visa applications of all types annually. It is also the only U.S. diplomatic installation in China authorized to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.