Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Remarks
2021/08/17

China Review News: According to the Washington Post, Peter Embarek, expert of the WHO Secretariat and head of the WHO origins-tracing mission to China, said during a recent interview with Danish media that it is a likely hypothesis that a lab employee was infected while doing bat virus research and brought the virus out from labs. He also said, the joint mission report's "extremely unlikely" wording of the lab-leak theory meant it was "not impossible", just "not likely". What is China's comment on that?

Hua Chunying: I have taken note of the report. The report also mentioned that Embarek told the Washington Post that the interview had been mistranslated into English from Danish. A WHO spokesman also said that the comment was mistranslated and that the interview took place months ago. I also noticed that, Embarek also said the relevant media didn't broadcast the program until now and distorted his views by publishing his words out of context online. He himself, as the head of the WHO origins-tracing mission to China, has been always upholding the China-WHO joint mission report on origins study.

Despite all this, the Washington Post continues to intensify troubles. Although fully aware of Embarek's denial, it misleadingly wrote "WHO scientist says Chinese officials pressured investigation" in the article's title and kept on repeating Embarek's distorted remarks at great length. The Washington Post claims to be good at "investigation" and "exploration" and champions "Democracy dies in darkness" as the slogan on its website. But why does it shut its eyes to obvious origins-tracing problems at home including the Fort Detrick, but has been obsessed with stretching and distorting truths to spread disinformation? This not only deviates from the Washington Post's own setting, but also violates the media's professional integrity.

On August 13, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a briefing on COVID-19 origins tracing for diplomatic envoys in China. At the briefing, Dr. Yuan Zhiming, Director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, once again responded to the "lab leak" theory by stressing that the allegation that SARS-CoV-2 is created by or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a sheer fabrication out of nothing. It contravenes facts and consensus of scholars. At the WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference on February 9 this year, Embarek said a lab leak in Wuhan was "extremely unlikely".

The WHO-China joint study report on the origins of COVID-19 was produced in full compliance with WHO procedures and with scientific methods. It has proven to be a valuable and authoritative report that can stand the scrutiny of science and history. The report should be the foundation and guidance for global origins tracing. Any attempt to overturn or distort the conclusions of the report is political manipulation and disrespect to science and scientists around the world.

China Daily: WHO issued a statement on August 12 saying that WHO's priority is for scientists to build on the first phase of studies and implement the recommendations outlined in the March 2021 report; searching for the origins of any novel pathogen is a difficult process, which is based on science, and takes collaboration, dedication and time; and the search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 should not be an exercise in attributing blame, finger-pointing or political point-scoring. The statement also says that on review of the phase one study report, WHO determined that there was insufficient scientific evidence to rule any of the hypotheses out and will set up the mechanism of the International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). Does China have any comment?

Hua Chunying: China noted the WHO statement on advancing the next series of studies to find the origins of SARS-CoV-2. The statement stresses that the next-phase studies should be built on the first phase of studies and implement the recommendations outlined in the WHO-China joint study report; and the search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 should be based on science, rather than be an exercise in finger-pointing or political point-scoring. These views should be followed through in relevant work of the WHO.

Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a briefing on COVID-19 origins tracing for diplomatic envoys in China to give a comprehensive elaboration on China's position, propositions and the latest work on origins tracing. I want to emphasize that the WHO is led by member states. The origins tracing is an important matter that must also be led by member states. The WHO Secretariat should act on the WHA resolution, conduct thorough consultation with member states on the global origin-tracing work plan, including the follow-up mechanism, and fully respect the views of member states. Very importantly, the plan for origin-tracing involving a particular country must be decided through consultation with the country concerned, as it provides the basis for effective cooperation to be conducted.

Global Times: In recent days, the media have exposed more and more questionable points of the US on origins tracing. For example, the US has yet to respond to calls for an investigation into Fort Detrick. Satellite photos of released by the media also show that from March 2020 to August 2021, when the COVID-19 has been ravaging the US, construction was underway at Fort Detrick, with new land cleared for construction and structures obviously reconstructed. Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), among others, said that the investigation led by the US intelligence community into COVID-19 origins has a clear end-goal of diverting attention from the country's pandemic response failures and casting blame on China, which is inherently wrong. Do you have any comment?

Hua Chunying: Last Friday, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu chaired a briefing on COVID-19 origins tracing for diplomatic envoys in China. Held both online and offline, the briefing was attended by more than 160 diplomatic envoys and representatives of international organizations in China. Vice Foreign Minister Ma elaborated on China's position, propositions and progress on origins tracing, stressing that China has all along supported and will continue to take part in science-based origins tracing efforts but firmly opposes politicizing origins tracing.

Like other countries, China is a victim of the COVID-19 outbreak and hopes to find the source of the virus and stem the transmission of the epidemics as soon as possible. Having that said, there should be no artificially created blind spot in origins tracing work, still less malicious false accusations and presumption of guilt for political purposes. This is a widely shared consensus of the international community.

I have noticed that many media are actively providing various clues for the source tracing work. Among them are some valuable facts and clues gathered by the Global Times recently. I asked my colleagues to prepare a PPT to share with you the information.

"The Coronavirus Hunter", Professor Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina and his virus modification technique:

According to a report from the school-run media of the University of North Carolina, where Baric works, "Baric has been tracking coronaviruses for decades and working on medications to treat coronavirus-caused infections."

According to the MIT Technology Review, Baric has acquired a technique called "reverse genetics" with which he could modify coronaviruses or make them more potent. With the support of this technique, Baric can not only cultivate a living virus based on the gene fragments of the coronaviruses, but also modify the genes of the coronaviruses and create new ones.

In 2003, a published paper of which Baric was a co-author showcased the power of this technique. In the research, scientists successfully resurrected a SARS virus. Later Baric and others applied for a patent for this achievement, which was approved in 2007, with the patent code US7279327B2.

This unique technique made Baric the top expert on coronaviruses in the US. He then began collecting samples of various coronaviruses around the world for research. In 2013, when the team of Shi Zhengli, a Chinese scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, detected the genome of a new coronavirus from a bat cave in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, Baric approached her, hoping to obtain the genetic data for research. Shi generously shared her findings with Baric. With his virus modification technique, Baric and his team created in his laboratory in the US a new coronavirus that can infect humans. In this research, the modification and the mice infection experiment were both conducted in the University of North Carolina. The constructed chimeric virus was not provided to Shi Zhengli's team. The research result was published in the "Nature Medicine" journal in 2015.

It's worth noticing that although many scientists around the world have said that artificially modified viruses may leave traces, Baric said in an interview with an Italian media outlet in September 2020 that "it is possible to engineer a virus without leaving a trace."

Baric's has close contact with the two institutes that engage in research involving high-risk viruses and coronaviruses at Fort Detrick, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), and the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick (IRF-Frederick), a research facility of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), both have close ties with Baric.

Numerous scientific papers show that Baric has conducted many studies involving coronaviruses with USAMRIID. For example, a 2006 paper showed that they had scientific collaboration on SARS.

An article posted by the US military this year revealed that Baric had been invited by US military in April to give a presentation on coronavirus research.

Lisa Hensley, a former doctoral student under Baric, later joined IRF-Frederick and became its deputy director.

A paper concerning high-risk MERS coronavirus published in 2014 on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy was the result of collaboration of these two institutes within Fort Detrick. There are many more examples of such cooperation.

Baric's abundant coronavirus resources and techniques to modify and create coronaviruses have been widely used at Fort Detrick through such cooperation and connections.

For example, a paper published in the Nature magazine showed that a researcher named Lisa Torzewski from the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick collaborated with Baric to use modified MERS virus to infect monkeys.

USAMRIID and IRF-Frederick have poor laboratory safety records. An open material from Frederick News-Post in 2014 showed that multiple security incidents happened at IRF-Frederick in 2014 alone, and many of them involve such high-risk coronaviruses as MERS. In the meantime, lab security issues are also reported in labs of lower security levels of this facility.

According to a report in July 2016 by the WKYC,a local media affiliated to the NBC, the IRF-Frederick lab saw a security incident involving Ebola back in 2015.

It is known to many that in the fall of 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19, USAMRIID's research was temporarily shut down by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to severe security incidents.

According to a report by Frederick News-Post on November 23 2019, in addition to the widely reported problems with the lab's waste decontamination system, its BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs that engaged in risky virus researches also had serious security risks and failed to implement protection procedures.

Baric's lab in North Carolina also has many security issues. Annual report of the University of North Carolina and American media have specific reports on that.

From the above-mentioned documented information from US mainstream media, we can at least draw two conclusions:

First, Baric and his dangerous coronavirus modification techniques are being widely used in research programs of US official and military labs in USAMRIID and IRF-Frederick at Fort Detrick.

Second, USAMRIID and IRF-Frederick, the two institutions that use these dangerous virus techniques, as well as Baric's lab in North Carolina all have poor security records and they directly involve BSL-4 labs where the most dangerous virus researches are conducted. In an interview with Italian media in September 2019, Baric said that he can artificially construct a virus indistinguishable from a natural one.

There are some other facts that many people are aware of. For example, a mysterious and large-scale EVALI outbreak happened in 2019 before COVID-19. Articles in mainstream international journals and media, such as the Lancet, show that the disease is very similar to COVID-19.

Its worth noticing that after studying 250 chest CT scans and clinical information from 142 EVALI patients selected from some 60 related studies that have been published, some leading Chinese experts who once fought the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan found that 16 patients were part of a viral infection chain, which indicates that they could have had COVID-19. Five of the cases were determined as "moderately suspicious," who have relatively complete clinical symptom and treatment information. In 12 of the 16 EVALI patients, symptoms started before 2020.

Many comments on social media in the US posted in the first half of 2020, when the coronavirus started to break out in that country, indicate that nearly more than 200 people in the US or countries having close ties with the US said people they know or they themselves had suspected infection of novel coronavirus as early as in November 2019, with COVID-like symptoms. And all these are real foreign netizens.

A Washington Post reporter having close ties with US intelligence agency said in an article published in June this year that the Congress questioned whether COVID-19 was already spreading at the Wuhan Military World Games in October 2019, because some of the Western athletes said they later got sick with COVID-19-like symptoms. There are also reports in the UK that some of the French athletes who attended the Wuhan Military World Games said they had strange illness. So the cases of the five Americans who went to the games are crucial clues.

In the face of these facts and clues, those who really care about the origins of the virus will support a thorough investigation of the truth based on facts in a scientific and rational manner, without letting go of any clues. But it is very confusing that US officials and media have remained usually silent on all those doubts and questions, ignored the appeal of more than 25 million Chinese for a probe into labs at Fort Detrick, and played dumb to increasing calls from the international community for origins tracing in multiple places around the world. Instead, it has kept targeting at China and been fabricating various rumors and lies to attack and smear China without any factual basis. They even openly used intelligence agencies to carry out investigations against China with presumption of guilt.

Such cover-up tactic just reminds us of the satellite images mentioned by this reporter that show obvious trace of buildings moved and shifted at Fort Detrick from March 2020 to August 2021. It also reminds us of an article published in Vanity Fair on June 3 this year, which said that former acting assistant secretary of the State Department claimed that their staff warned leaders within his bureau "not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19" because it would "'open a can of worms' if it continued." It begs the question: What is the US hiding?

If the US is obsessed with the "lab leak" theory, then it should invite international experts to conduct origins research in the US twice in an above-board manner just like China did. If so, we will naturally have the conclusions.

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