China Attacks W.H.O.’s Tedros for ‘Appeasing Washington’ with Call to Probe Lab Leak

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on March 11, 2020 that the new coronavirus outbreak can now …
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

An editorial in the Chinese government-run propaganda publication Global Times condemned World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday after Tedros urged a more thorough investigation into the theory the Chinese coronavirus escaped from a laboratory.

Tedros did not name a specific laboratory but made the remark at an event to mark the publication of the final W.H.O. report on the agency’s investigation into the origin of the Chinese coronavirus in Wuhan, central China, where the virus originated. The report addressed the potential of the virus having infected human populations after escaping the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a facility known to have been studying bat coronaviruses at the time of the onset of the current pandemic. The report concluded a leak was “highly unlikely” and did not address a deliberate release.

Tedros, in remarks to the press, called the W.H.O. report’s investigation into the hypothesis insufficient.

In its editorial, the Global Times claimed that Tedros had succumbed to alleged pressure from the United States and made comments “appeasing Washington.” Tedros received support from the Chinese Communist Party in his quest to run the global health agency, despite not being a medical doctor, in 2017 and has repeatedly fielded accusations of being biased in Beijing’s favor. Beijing had previously supported his efforts against the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which included administrative decisions such as repeating false Chinese government claims that the virus could not spread from person to person.

“W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus apparently has suffered the greatest pressure [from the United States],” the Times speculated. “He said during the Tuesday press conference that although ‘a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation.’ … He was appeasing Washington.”

“The U.S. has forced the leader of this international organization to be politically sensitive and walk a tightrope between science and politics,” the propaganda newspaper claimed.

The Global Times went on to claim “the U.S. has been doing the worst job in the global pandemic fight” and has “long concluded that the coronavirus was leaked from a virus laboratory in Wuhan,” and so dismissed the W.H.O.’s conclusions on the matter. The U.S. government has not stated a formal position that the Chinese coronavirus originated in the WIV, but former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did state publicly on multiple occasions that enough evidence exists that the theory should receive proper consideration.

The Global Times also defended the outsized influence that Communist Party-approved alleged scientists had in the Wuhan investigation, overseeing the international experts visiting the country and limiting their access to pivotal raw data, according to Tedros.

“Without the help of Chinese experts to provide clues and raw data, foreign experts, even if they are of a high caliber, won’t know what to do,” the Times claimed. “It is ridiculous that the U.S. asks W.H.O. to trace the origins of the virus like how Sherlock Holmes might do, as if it is in a detective story.”

The full 120-page World Health Organization report published Tuesday is the culmination of a visit by international experts, closely monitored by Chinese government agents, to Wuhan at the beginning of 2021, over a year after the start of the pandemic and months after the Communist Party had admitted to destroying key evidence like early samples of the virus. The report studied four possible ways the Chinese coronavirus first began infecting humans: directly from a host animal, through an intermediary animal, through frozen food from abroad, and through a laboratory leak. It concluded that the intermediary host theory was the likeliest of the four and the laboratory leak the least likely. The report notably emphasized that investigators tested 80,000 animals in China known to carry coronaviruses and could not find a single example of the Chinese coronavirus living in an animal in the wild, meaning no evidence exists for a natural reservoir of the virus in China. Minimal evidence exists of coronavirus infections through frozen food, making that hypothesis also unlikely.

Presenting the report, Tedros complained that Beijing made a free investigation difficult.

“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 said.

He also mentioned the lack of detail in the section on a potential laboratory leak specifically.

“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 said. “However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, rather than interpreting the lack of animal reservoirs as evidence implicating the Wuhan Institute of Technology, claimed the report should lead to missions seeking the “true” origin of the virus in other countries.

“Study of origins is a matter of science, which should be jointly conducted by scientists all over the world. To politicize this issue will only severely hinder global cooperation in study of origins, jeopardize anti-pandemic cooperation, and cost more lives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. “It would run counter to the international community’s aspiration for solidarity against the virus.”

“Study of origins is also a global mission that should be conducted in multiple countries and localities. We believe the joint WHO-China study will effectively stimulate global cooperation in origin-tracing,” the ministry added.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated a government conspiracy theory Monday that the pandemic truly began in Maryland, where the U.S. Army previously maintained a laboratory at Fort Detrick.

“There is still a big question mark over the lab at Fort Detrick,” Hua insisted. “When some on the U.S. side pointed fingers at our laboratory in Wuhan, we openly invited the W.H.O. mission for a visit and provided full cooperation. … But can the US side do the same, and invite international experts and media for a visit in an open and aboveboard manner?”

The earliest known case of Chinese coronavirus is believed to have been diagnosed on November 17, 2019, according to leaked Chinese government documents obtained by the South China Morning Post. A study by University of California-San Diego researchers published this month estimated that evidence suggests the true first cases of human infection occurred in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, in October 2019. No evidence exists of any cases of Chinese coronavirus anywhere in the world before these days, including Maryland.

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