The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Wednesday published an expose on the World Health Organization’s (W.H.O.) “investigation” of the origins of the coronavirus.
According to the WSJ report, the Chinese government had near-total control over the W.H.O. visit to Wuhan, from deciding who could be on the team to dictating what the visiting scientists were allowed to see. The government also forced the W.H.O. team to watch Chinese political propaganda instead of seriously digging into the early days of the pandemic.
The WSJ said it uncovered “fresh details about the team’s formation and constraints that reveal how little power it had to conduct a thorough, impartial examination – and call into question the clarity its findings appeared to provide.”
The WSJ detailed the shocking amount of control Beijing reportedly ended up having over the belated investigation that finally occurred in January and February 2021 – right down to Chinese operatives being allowed to “review” W.H.O.’s final report and “make possible changes” before it gets published next week.
The investigation was a bit of a sideshow right from the start, since it was widely known the Chinese had already sanitized the Wuhan seafood market where the virus is widely assumed to have jumped from animals to humans, and Chinese officials were clearly lying about the issue of live animals that might have been disease vectors being sold there. The WSJ included a photo of a mob of body-suited cleaners busily destroying all of the evidence investigators really needed to see in March 2020, almost a year before the investigators finally got there.
U.S. officials told the Journal’s investigators the Chinese fought hard to delay the investigation as long as possible, quibbling over “every comma” in the W.H.O. resolution to authorize one. W.H.O. obligingly cut its 34-nation executive board out of the negotiations and worked out the details directly with China.
What they produced was a “terms of references” deal preserving China’s political fiction that the coronavirus might have come from another country, failing to demand inspections of Chinese laboratories, refusing to mention the possibility the Chinese coronavirus came from a Chinese lab, and giving China “veto power over who would join the team.”
China used that power to ensure the only American on the team was Dr. Peter Daszak, an acknowledged expert in zoonotic viruses who presides over a nonprofit organization that funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the very lab U.S. and other intelligence agencies suspect could be the true origin point of the Chinese coronavirus.
Even that level of veto power was not enough for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), because it blocked two of the W.H.O. investigators at the last minute in January with spurious accusations they tested positive for the coronavirus. The 13 investigators who finally made it to Wuhan were locked in quarantine for two weeks, and then reportedly controlled like laboratory mice by the CCP once their work finally began:
On Jan. 28, a year to the day from the WHO director-general’s meeting with President Xi, they were cleared to begin field visits and face-to-face meetings with Chinese counterparts. For the remainder of the trip, they were restricted mainly to one part of a hotel due to more quarantine rules and forced to eat separately from Chinese counterparts—preventing the kind of informal conversations team members said were often the most fruitful in such efforts. Their contact with anyone outside the team was limited.
It soon became evident to foreign officials and scientists tracking the mission that the team’s itinerary was partly designed to bolster China’s official narrative that the government moved swiftly to control the virus. The team’s first visit was to a hospital where they met a doctor Beijing feted as the first to raise alarms through official channels about an outbreak of unknown pneumonia. The next day, after another hospital visit, the team went to an exhibition commemorating Chinese authorities’ early “decisive victory in the battle” against the virus, paying tribute to President Xi’s leadership.
“People think you can just waltz into a country, any country, and say ‘I want to see the books.’ I don’t think diplomacy works that way,” said Australian W.H.O. team member Dominic Dwyer.
W.H.O.’s stage-managed visit did include some valid scientific research by all accounts, but it culminated in a scandal so huge it rattled even the delicately diplomatic World Health Organization and the Biden administration, which was determined to reset relations with Beijing. China has refused to hand over valuable source data, including medical records and samples, dating from the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Chinese told W.H.O. to take their word for what happened in and around Wuhan a year ago, presenting them with completed “analysis” from Chinese sources and refusing to let them see the original data.
The WSJ on Wednesday revealed a few previously unknown or downplayed details of this CCP stonewalling: the Chinese did not complete “some short-term tasks the team had hoped for, including detailed studies of blood samples from before December 2019 and compiling a definitive list of animals sold at the Huanan market,” and half of the Chinese team that presented its “analysis” to W.H.O. were political operatives, not scientists.
Some of that Chinese “analysis” was a pack of painfully obvious lies to boot. Some of the source data hidden from the W.H.O. team pertained to how many people were hospitalized in the Wuhan area with coronavirus-like symptoms before December 2019, the official beginning of the outbreak. The Chinese claimed there were only 92 such patients and none of them tested positive for antibodies, but they did not test for antibodies until “a few week’s before the team’s arrival,” when their samples were over a year old, and the Chinese coronavirus’s clearest symptoms are so common that it is nearly impossible for a population of almost 60 million to produce only 92 possible cases in three months.
When W.H.O. pointed these inconsistencies out to their Chinese hosts and demanded to see the source data, the response was a demand to go searching for coughs and fevers from November 2019 in other countries, to bolster the CCP’s political narrative that the coronavirus began somewhere else and was shipped to China by either frozen European seafood or sweaty American soldiers.
Another confrontation reportedly occurred when W.H.O. asked to test frozen blood samples from the winter of 2019 kept at a Wuhan blood bank, reasoning that if the Chinese coronavirus was spreading through the area before December, it might show up in some of the frozen specimens. The Chinese refused, claiming they have regulations against such testing, even though W.H.O. noted every other country in the world permits it, and one would think any competent blood bank would be eager to know if its frozen blood donations contained one of the most devastating viruses in human history.
The W.H.O. team got to spend all of three hours at the notorious Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is less time than cops would spend investigating a stolen bicycle, and much of that time was spent watching “presentations on the institute’s research, safety procedures, and the health of its staff.”
This was somehow good enough for the W.H.O. team to “unanimously” agree with a panel of CCP scientists that the institute was “unlikely” to be the source of the virus, a conclusion W.H.O. has been curiously reluctant to stand by since it was first announced. The WSJ article concluded by quoting Dr. Dywer admitting that his team did not see any “actual data” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but wistfully hoping the Chinese might get around to providing it someday.
As far as the CCP and its state media are concerned, it is case closed in Wuhan. The state-run Global Times on Wednesday ran an interview with lead Chinese scientist Liang Wannian that was fronted by a comical “infographic” explaining why no one needs to ask any further questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, ever.
Laing said W.H.O.’s controversial visit to Wuhan was good enough, even though “the Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] outbreak remains an unsolved mystery.” He praised the hard-working Chinese scientists who prepared the analyses given to W.H.O. in lieu of actual data and samples, and accused foreign “politicians and media” who doubted China’s conclusions of “politicizing the scientific issue of tracing the source of COVID-19, regardless of scientific facts, for their own personal gain.”
Liang simply denied the documented fact that China refused to hand over source data to W.H.O. investigators and said there were no “conflicts” between China and foreign investigators at all.
“As for the original data of some cases, due to the privacy of patients, according to Chinese laws, we cannot let the international experts copy and take it out of the country, which they fully understood,” he claimed.
“After their field visits and study, the experts team agreed unanimously that it is extremely unlikely that the virus leaked from the [Wuhan] lab, so future virus origins-tracing missions will no longer be focused on this area, unless there is new evidence,” Liang concluded.