A Chinese “expert” told state media Wednesday a laboratory leak in the United States was a potential “likely” explanation for the origin of the Chinese coronavirus, a conspiracy theory the Chinese Foreign Ministry has promoted for months without evidence.
The Chinese Communist Party and its stable of loyal commentators have escalated calls for a World Health Organization (W.H.O.) mission to the United States to find the “true” origin of the Chinese coronavirus, which all scientific evidence suggests originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Leaked Chinese government documents obtained by the South China Morning Post last year revealed Chinese doctors diagnosed the first novel coronavirus infection in Wuhan on November 17, 2019, earlier than any case on record anywhere in the world. The Communist Party has insisted to the W.H.O. it documented its first cases in December.
The W.H.O. published a 120-page report Tuesday detailing the findings of a mission to Wuhan in early 2021, a year after Chinese government officials admitted to destroying key evidence such as early samples of the virus. The report concluded that the likeliest scenario for the introduction of the Chinese coronavirus to humans was the virus originating in an animal source, then jumping to an intermediate species that infected humans. The second likeliest identified was a direct infection from the source animal. The report concluded that introduction into human populations through a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was highly unlikely, based on Chinese government experts insisting this was so.
Chinese scientists speaking to the state-run Global Times propaganda outlet Wednesday latched onto the report’s notable finding that, after testing tens of thousands of animals, not a single one carried the Chinese coronavirus to suggest the virus did not originate in China. It further highlighted remarks by W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday urging his own organization to do more research into the possibility of a laboratory leak as the origin of the virus.
The Global Times noted Chinese scientists are pressuring the W.H.O. into seeking the origin of the virus in laboratories abroad, particularly in America.
“The global investigation on the virus origin is the direction that Chinese scientists believe the next stage probe should be,” the state newspaper claimed. “Yet they urged certain countries, especially the U.S., to stop putting political pressure on this work and on scientists, because if such an investigation is politically guided, there won’t be any fair and scientific outcome.”
One such scientist, identified as Xin Qiang, accused the W.H.O. of discrimination for beginning its investigation of the origin of the virus in China, the country where the virus originated.
“Why was the investigation only launched in China? Are other countries also in need of an investigation?” he asked.
Another expert focused on Tedros’ remarks about a potential laboratory safety failure.
“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data. I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing,” Tedros told reporters Tuesday, accusing China of keeping important information from the international team.
“The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident,” Tedros continued. “However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
The head of China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC), Zeng Guang, stated Wednesday that Tedros’ remark did not necessarily mean experts had to consider further investigations in China.
“The lab leak theory is extremely unlikely in China, but it doesn’t mean that it’s unlikely somewhere else,” the Global Times quoted him as saying.
Zeng suggested beginning at a former U.S. Army laboratory known as Fort Detrick in Maryland. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has spent the past year insinuating Fort Detrick is the true origin of the pandemic, presenting no evidence for the claim but repeatedly questioning why scientists have yet to investigate the site.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made this same argument again Wednesday.
“As for the possibility that the virus leaked after a lab incident, members of the expert group said that they would inspect laboratories all over the world if the need arises. As you know, the Wuhan labs have already been inspected. But when Fort Detrick will open its doors to experts?” Hua asked reporters during her regular press briefing. “I would like to know why there aren’t any reports about the Fort Detrick lab in foreign media.”
There are no reports connecting the Fort Detrick laboratory to the coronavirus pandemic because no scientific evidence suggests a connection. Thousands of cases of coronavirus had been documented around the world, mostly in China, before Maryland documented its first three Chinese coronavirus cases on March 5, 2020. Hua attempted to argue last year that Maryland experienced several cases of e-cigarette lung injuries in 2019, arguing the cases could have been misdiagnosed Chinese coronavirus cases.
“There are also reports that soon after the closure [of the Fort Detrick laboratory], ‘E-cigarette disease’ broke out in the surroundings,” Hua said at the time:
According to data released by the US CDC in late February, the flu season that begins in the winter of 2019 has infected at least 32 million people in the United States, including 18,000 deaths from flu-related illnesses. CDC Director Michael Redfield has publicly acknowledged that some of the deaths from influenza were actually caused by COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus]. These are all public records in US media reports available online.
E-cigarette lung injuries are closely tied to faulty manufacturing of e-cigarette devices, or vapes, from China. Critically, they are injuries, not infections – no evidence exists of a lung injury being contagious and no one diagnosed with a lung injury has every been known to transmit the injury to another person.
The Chinese government has apparently already invited itself ty be part of any investigation of a foreign country to find the origin of the virus.
“Chinese experts will continue to actively participate in the research under a global framework led by the W.H.O., Liang Wannian, team leader of the Chinese side of the W.H.O.-China joint expert team which conducted research in Wuhan, said at a press conference on Wednesday,” according to the Global Times.