China: Scientists Calling Out W.H.O.’s Faulty Wuhan Probe Have a ‘Political Agenda’

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin takes a question during the daily Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing on July 24, 2020. - China on July 24 ordered the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu to close in retaliation for one of its missions in the United States being …
GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday attacked a group of 26 scientists who published a letter condemning the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and the Chinese Communist Party for making a true scientific investigation into the origins of the Chinese coronavirus impossible.

The letter demanded China allow a team of W.H.O. full intellectual freedom in exploring key sites in Wuhan, the city where the Chinese coronavirus originated, and access to all necessary data on coronavirus cases in early 2020. A team of W.H.O. public health investigators traveled to Wuhan in February to seek evidence to answer where the virus came from and how it managed to spread among humans so quickly in late 2019. The team was forced into a two-week quarantine before touring areas like the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the Huanan Seafood Market, to which the first coronavirus cases were reportedly linked. Chinese government investigators accompanied the W.H.O. team throughout the probe and the Communist Party refused to hand over raw data on coronavirus cases in the city, compromising the team’s work.

Chinese officials admitted to destroying key evidence during the first days of the pandemic, claiming it necessary to “disinfect” the Huanan market and other locations and to destroy early samples of the Chinese coronavirus to prevent further infections. The decision has made it difficult for scientists to track the virus’s evolution during the early days of the pandemic.

The W.H.O. announced Thursday that it would no longer publish a report detailing preliminary findings from the report, as it had been scheduled to do within the next week. Officials insisted scientists would publish the full report.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin took care on Friday not to directly attack the World Health Organization — which has been overwhelmingly favorable to Beijing in its handling of the pandemic — but instead to direct his ire towards the 26 scientists who drafted a letter demanding the Chinese government allow a proper investigation in the country.

“In disregard of scientific facts, some people have politicized the issue of origin-tracing, misinterpreted the scientific conclusion and report of the joint mission, and kept instigating an investigation with presumption of guilt against specific country,” Wang told reporters during the daily Foreign Ministry briefing on Friday, referring to China. “Such behavior is not conducive to international anti-epidemic cooperation.”

“These signatories can deceive no one, including themselves, as to whether their so-called ‘open letter of scientists’ is a true proposal for scientific and professional origin-tracing or pursuit of political agenda with presumption of guilt,” Wang railed.

Wang defended the investigation by claiming all the members of the W.H.O. investigative team — not the Chinese Communist Party scientists Beijing forced them to cooperate with — were chosen exclusively by the W.H.O. with no input from China, which does not address scientists’ concerns about the Beijing team. The handpicked Communist Party team, he insisted, showed that China was serious about aiding the investigation.

China, Wang said, “arranged top Chinese experts in relevant fields to take part, and assembled a large number of technical personnel to support the joint mission in collecting data and documents.”

Wang concluded by demanding the W.H.O. organizing missions to other countries to find the true origin of the Chinese coronavirus: “since there have been more reports worldwide on the coronavirus appearing in various places around the world in the latter half of 2019, it is getting increasingly urgent and necessary to conduct similar visits to other countries and regions.”

In reality, no evidence exists of any coronavirus cases surfacing anywhere in the world before November 17, 2019, the date that Wuhan health workers confirmed the first Chinese coronavirus case, according to leaked Chinese government documents. Beijing does not recognize these documents as legitimate and instead claims that reports of the virus appearing elsewhere in November of that year negates the evidence in Wuhan. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have repeatedly accused the United States of causing the pandemic and Maryland of being the true origin of the virus, without evidence.

The offending open letter, signed by 26 scientists, surfaced in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, which first reported that the W.H.O. was canceling plans to publish a preliminary report on the Wuhan investigation in part because the scientists did not gather sufficient data there to draw significant conclusions. The letter condemns the Chinese Communist Party specifically for hindering the scientific process to trace the origins of the Chinese coronavirus.

“[T]he joint team did not have the mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses to carry out a full and unrestricted investigation into all the relevant SARS-CoV-2 [Chinese coronavirus] origin hypotheses — whether natural spillover or laboratory/research-related incident,” the scientists wrote in their letter, acknowledging the existence of theories that the virus did not originate in nature, but in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which at the time was known to be conducting research on coronaviruses.

The scientists expressed particular concern with the fact that the W.H.O. team appeared handicapped by the existence of a parallel Chinese regime team “made of Chinese citizens whose scientific independence may be limited.”

“[I]nternational members of the joint team had to rely on information the Chinese authorities chose to share with them, and … any joint team report must be approved by both the Chinese and international members of the joint team,” the scientists noted. They went on to criticize the lack of screening for “conflict of interest” even among the W.H.O. team members and the lack of access to “granular lab records, data, and personnel to an extent that would allow them to confidently evaluate the various hypotheses.”

Beijing also imposed a “broad Chinese State Council gag order which prevented any spontaneous sharing of any information about the pandemic, and which coordinated the careful release of any such information with the Chinese government,” the scientists highlighted.

The letter concluded calling for the dismissal of the current operation and an entirely new, and objective, investigation into the origins of the Chinese coronavirus.

W.H.O. officials have openly admitted that its investigations in Wuhan have yielded little to no usable evidence.

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