Covid: China urges US to ‘stop attacking’ Beijing over virus origins

Beijing said the use of spy agencies, not scientists, was "iron-clad proof" of Washington's attempts to politicize the origins of COVID-19. A new report published Friday shed little fresh light on how the virus emerged.

Beijing on Sunday described a US intelligence review into the origins of Covid-19 as “political and false.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Washington to “stop attacking” the Asian country, just days after the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a fuller version of its findings into how the novel coronavirus may have emerged.

The US paper said Beijing continued to “hinder the global investigation,” adding that without new information, spy agencies would not be able to judge whether the virus emerged via animal-to-human transmission or a lab leak.

How did China respond to the latest report?

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “No matter how many times the report is published or how many versions it comes in, it will not change the fact that this report is, in essence, a political and false one, with no scientific basis or credibility.”

Wang added: “The origins study of the novel coronavirus is a serious and complex scientific issue, which should and can only be carried out by global scientists in cooperation. The use of intelligence agencies to trace the origins is in itself an iron-clad proof of politicization.”

He claimed that more than 80 countries have opposed the politicization of origins-tracing. “However, the US remains obsessed with political manipulation and intelligence-led origins-tracing in disregard of international justice.”

Wang called on Washington to “stop all scapegoating and blame-shifting” and instead “create enabling conditions for scientists all over the world to conduct origins-tracing cooperation.”

What did the latest US report conclude?

The declassified paper, published Friday, said a natural origin and a lab leak are both plausible hypotheses. But it said analysts disagree on which is more likely or whether any definitive assessment can be made at all.

The so-called lab-leak theory claims the virus was spread from a research facility in Wuhan, the central city where the contagion was first reported.

The report dismissed suggestions that the coronavirus originated as a bioweapon, saying proponents of this theory “do not have direct access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology” and have been accused of spreading disinformation.

The report said four US spy agencies and a multi-agency body have “low confidence” that COVID-19 originated with an infected animal or a related virus.

But one agency said it had “moderate confidence” that the first human infection most likely was the result of a laboratory accident, probably involving experimentation or animal handling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The report said US agencies and the global scientific community lacked “clinical samples … from the earliest COVID-19 cases” and called for China to provide access to records and tissue samples from several markets in Wuhan.

Beijing resists fresh investigation

China has faced international criticism for failing to cooperate more fully in investigations of COVID’s origins.

Beijing is under intense pressure to consider a fresh probe into the origins of the pandemic after a delayed and heavily politicized visit by a World Health Organization team of international experts that failed to conclude how the virus first broke out.

But Chinese officials have resisted this, brushing off claims by US President Joe Biden that China was withholding “critical information” as motivated by politics.

A probe into the origins of an earlier virus — Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS, which emerged in December 2002 — initially blamed Himalayan palm civets found at live-animal markets in Guangdong, China, as the source.

But 15 years later, researchers traced the likely original source of the virus to bat caves in China’s Yunnan province.

 

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