The Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, says there is a fixation on “political manipulation” after President Biden ordered a review of the virus’s origins.
Policeizing the origins of COVID-19 would hamper investigations and undermine global efforts to curb the pandemic, the Chinese embassy in the United States said after President Joe Biden ordered a review of U.S. intelligence on how and where it arose. the virus for the first time.
“Some political forces have focused on political manipulation and (the) game of guilt,” the embassy in Washington, DC said in a statement on its website Wednesday evening.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing to begin a second phase of studies on the origins of COVID-19, and China has been pressured for researchers to have more access amid allegations that SARS- CoV-2 was leaked from a research laboratory. Wuhan City, where the first COVID-19 cases emerged in late 2019.
China has repeatedly denied responsibility for the lab, accusing the United States and other countries of trying to distract themselves from their own failures to contain the virus.
Biden said Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agencies were divided over whether COVID-19 “arose from human contact with an infected animal or a laboratory accident.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that U.S. agencies were examining reports on this three researchers at the Wuhan lab became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.
“We are starting to see a lot of converging streams of evidence that there has been no transparency from the Chinese government,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an expert on biosafety and emerging infectious diseases, told Al Jazeera. “We are hearing about people working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology getting sick from a disease, we know this has been spreading since November (2019) and we have seen that the Chinese government was very reluctant to to allow the press to investigate the origins of this virus, so I think it raises questions about how to get the Chinese government to agree with what may have happened in the early days of the pandemic. ”
Yanzhong Huang, a senior global health member of the Washington, DC Foreign Relations Council, said China’s lack of openness was a key factor behind the resurgence of laboratory leak theory.
“There’s nothing new there to prove the hypothesis,” he said. “In researching the origins of the pandemic it is really important to have transparency to build confidence in the results of the research.”
“A comprehensive study”
China has stepped up efforts to control the narrative surrounding the pandemic after successfully suppressing the virus in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where what was then a mysterious new viral pneumonia was first detected in late 2019.
Complainants, journalists and the families of the dead have come under pressure. Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist who was one of the first to warn the public about the virus, was arrested by police for spreading “rumors.”. In December, citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was charged with “disputing and causing trouble” and was sentenced to four years in prison for her work in the early days of the outbreak. Others are also facing trial on similar charges.
The Chinese embassy said it supports “a thorough study of all the first cases of COVID-19 found around the world and a thorough investigation of some secret bases and biological laboratories around the world.”
The tabloid Global Times, which is part of the Communist Party government’s People’s Daily group, said Wednesday afternoon that if the “laboratory leak theory” was to be investigated, the United States should also allow researchers enter their own facilities, including the Fort Detrick lab.
“Very clearly, they are trying to internationalize their way out of the jam,” said Jamie Metzl, a senior member of the Atlantic Council think tank, which has been campaigning for new independent research.
A joint China-WHO study published in March said yes highly unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 would leak from the laboratory, adding that it most likely spread from bats to humans through an as yet unidentified intermediate species.
China has also continued to point to the possibility that COVID-19 originated elsewhere and entered the country through an infection carried with frozen food or through wildlife trade networks in southeast China.
“The pandemic started in China,” Metzl said. “We start with a complete investigation there and expand if necessary. In short, this [statement from the embassy] it is a scandalous insult to all the people who have died in this terrible tragedy and their families. “
Huang, of CFR, said subsequent investigations into the origins of COVID-19 were at a “dead end.”
“Ideally you want China to be more cooperative and more transparent,” Huang said. “But now the issue has become politicized, with research stakes so high.”