Former UK Spy Chief Claims Coronavirus Escaped from Chinese Lab

A picture taken in a laboratory of the National Reference Center (CNR) for respiratory viruses at the Institut Pasteur in Paris on January 28, 2020 shows a biohazard sticker on the entrance of a room. - The CNR analyses the tests for respiratory viruses among which coronavirus. The deadly new …
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images

The former head of Britain’s foreign secret intelligence office, Sir Richard Dearlove, has claimed that coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory and escaped, quoting a study that found some elements of COVID-19 had been “inserted” and did not evolve naturally. He also suggested that the academic community suppressed the original paper because it was explicit in its blame of China.

Scientists from around the world maintain that the virus originated in either bats or pangolins before spontaneously jumping to humans. However, the 75-year-old former spy chief referenced a Norwegian-British study that points to a man-made interference in the virus.

According a paper written by Professor Angus Dalgleish of St George’s Hospital, University of London, and Norwegian virologist Birger Sørensen seen by The Telegraph, scientists had found “inserted sections” on the virus’s surface. It had “unique fingerprints” which could not have been a result of natural evolution but likely “indicative of purposive manipulation” in a lab capable of producing “chimeric viruses of high potency”.

Sir Richard said the study was a “very important contribution to a debate which is now starting about how the virus evolved and how it got out and broke out as a pandemic”.

He told the newspaper that the study will “shift the debate”, causing countries to “rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership”.

The paper has not been without controversy, with one scientist, John Fredrik Moxnes of the Norwegian military, seeking to have his name removed from it. Other members of the scientific community have dismissed the findings. The original version of the paper was not accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Academic journals had rejected it on the grounds that it was “unsuitable for publication”.

Sir Richard, however, suggested that this reception to the first paper may be due to its politically incorrect findings. The former spy chief revealed that the article had been rewritten several times. An earlier version, seen by the newspaper, said it was factually correct to call coronavirus the “Wuhan virus” (Wuhan having two labs studying bat coronaviruses). It had also said that they had proven “beyond reasonable doubt that the Covid-19 virus is engineered”.

“We are aware that these findings could have political significance and raise troubling questions,” the original paper had said.

After being rewritten to reduce explicit blame on China, the paper was eventually accepted for publication in the Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery.

“This [the first] article was submitted to a… journal, which refused it within a week of receiving it, and in the same period accepted for publication two or three Chinese articles that relate to the virus, within 48 hours,” Sir Richard told The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast published on Wednesday.

“So I mean, as this debate about the virus develops, I think all this material is going to be in print and is going to embarrass a number of people, I think. Let’s suggest that the Chinese maybe have too much say in their journals, in what appears and what doesn’t.”

China has maintained that it was not responsible for the outbreak. But reports in recent months have revealed that China had deliberately destroyed evidence about the origins of the virus and “disappeared” whistleblower scientists who spoke out about coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic coincides with growing tensions around Hong Kong as well as the rising concern of the security risks of engaging Huawei in building the UK’s 5G.

Mr Dearlove called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reverse his decision on Huawei, saying: “It’s important that we do not put any of our critical infrastructure in the hands of Chinese interests. So telecommunications, Huawei, nuclear power stations, and then things that, you know, we require and need in a crisis, like PPE.

“We have allowed China so much rope that we are now suffering the consequences, and it’s time to pull the rope in and to tighten the way we do business. It’s very, very important that we keep a keen eye on this and do not allow the Chinese to, as it were, benefit strategically from this situation that has been imposed on all of us.”

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