The United States on Tuesday accused Chinese state media of publishing "disinformation" about its diplomats in Hong Kong, as it denied its staff invoked immunity to avoid isolating after positive coronavirus tests.
Washington temporarily closed its consulate on Monday to conduct deep cleaning and contact tracing after two employees were infected with the virus.
The consulate – and health authorities – have said the pair were being taken into a hospital isolation ward as required by the territory's anti-coronavirus rules.
But state media outlets and a leading pro-Beijing trade union accused the employees of invoking diplomatic immunity, which US officials flat out rejected.
"The disinformation from PRC state media about these two cases not complying with quarantine is false," a State Department spokesperson said.
"We reject these efforts to spread disinformation about a critical public health issue."
The reports of diplomatic immunity first ran on Monday in Dot Dot News, an online news outlet. It is part of an opaquely owned media group that answers to Beijing's liaison office.
Following the reports, state-run Global Times tabloid repeated the diplomatic immunity accusation, and said US diplomats had displayed "arrogant outlaw behaviour".
The Federation of Trade Unions staged a protest outside the US consulate on Tuesday morning. (AFP)