Following a war of words between the Islamic Republic Ministry of health and Beijing's Ambassador to Tehran, a prominent member of Majles (Iranian parliament) has called on the country's Foreign Ministry to summon the Chinese envoy to protest his actions.
The lawmaker in question is Ali Motahari, who is ending his term in parliament but in the last three years has often criticized officials and the hardliners for their restrictive policies and use of force.
On April 5, the Islamic Republic Health Ministry spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, had said at a press briefing that China's statistics about the number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus are "a bitter joke." He added, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months, "one should think very hard [if it is true]."
The comments triggered a barrage of tweets by the Chinese Ambassador in Tehran, Chang Hua who patronizingly directed Jahanpur to follow press briefings by China's Health Ministry "carefully" to draw his conclusions.
Chang Hua, backed by ultraconservative allies of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also reminded Jahanpur that China had stood with Iran at a time of severe crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak and Washington's devastating economic sanctions imposed on the clergy-dominated Iran.
The Islamic Republic's dependency on China has deepened since Washington dropped the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Meanwhile, reformists and moderates in Iran dismissed Chang Hua's tweets as a reflection of arrogance.
Tehran's representative to Majlis, Ali Motahari, insisted on Thursday that the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry should not leave Chang's comments unanswered.
"Our campaign against America was not supposed to end with our dependency on China," Motahari tweeted, adding, "Sadly, our economic dependence on China has also led us to remain silent about the Chinese government's great oppression of the country's Muslims."
Another prominent MP, Tehran's Mahmoud Sadeqi, joined voices with his colleague and reprimanded the military who had supported Chang and chastised Jahanpur.
Ali Motahari and Mahmoud Sadeqi were both disqualified by the ultraconservative Guardian Council and barred from running in parliamentary electios last February.