China asks WHO to investigate US origin-tracing laboratory

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: Mar 31, 2021, 10:36 PM(IST)

China's President Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Throughout the pandemic, China has amplified theories that the virus may have surfaced outside of its borders or been imported on frozen food

China deflected questions over an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 on Wednesday, after the WHO chief revived a theory it may have leaked from a Chinese lab and the United States led concerns over data access.

The pandemic has killed nearly 2.8 million people worldwide since it first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.

Throughout the pandemic, China has amplified theories that the virus may have surfaced outside of its borders or been imported on frozen food.   

Now, China is pushing the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus originated in the United States. It's a disinformation campaign aimed at shifting the blame.

The campaign  was crafted by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

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Chinese state-backed Global Times was roped in to spread the virus of fake news.

The WHO's chief, long accused of complacency towards Beijing, hardened his tone Tuesday, urging further investigation into a theory Covid-19 sprang from a laboratory leak.

The director-general of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also rebuked China for sitting on key data.

The theory that the new coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was first detected in humans in December 2019, was a US favourite under former president Donald Trump.

China has always flatly rejected the hypothesis.

And the team of international experts sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization earlier this year to probe the pandemic's origins have also all but ruled it out.

Their long-delayed report, written alongside the team's Chinese counterparts and published Tuesday, ranked four hypotheses in order of probability.

They said the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease most probably jumped from bats to humans via an intermediary animal, judging a lab leak to be an "extremely unlikely" source.

But Tedros said Tuesday the probe into Wuhan's virology labs had not gone far enough, adding that he was prepared to launch a fresh investigation.

China used social media as a tool to spread its propaganda. The country's Twitter-like microblog Weibo, targeted a NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick and demanded an investigation on the origin-tracing laboratory.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a briefing in China ''I’d like to stress that if the united states truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick, give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio-labs, invite who experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States, and respond to the concerns from the international community with real actions.''

Beijing insists it was transparent with the scientists. It said it provided open access to wet markets, labs, patients and data from the first torrid weeks of the virus, admonishing critics for "politicising" a global health crisis. 

Last week, Swedish clothing retailer H&M faced a public backlash in China when social media users circulated a statement the company made last year announcing it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang. Other brands, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Hugo Boss, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, New Balance, Converse and Puma have since also come under fire for statements that they would not use cotton produced in the far-western Chinese region due to suspected forced labour and Chinese celebrity endorsers have dropped several foreign retail labels including Nike.

Activists and U.N. rights experts have accused China of using mass detainment, torture, forced labour and sterilisations on Uighurs in Xinjiang. China denies these claims and says its actions in the region are necessary to counter extremism.

Hundreds of Chinese vessels believed to be manned by militias in the South China Sea have spread to a wider area, the Philippines said on Wednesday, defying its demand for the flotilla to be withdrawn immediately.

Footage shot by the Philippine Coast Guard showed at least a dozen of the Chinese vessels anchored around the Whitsun Reef on Saturday.

The Philippines has described the presence of the boats inside its 200-mile (322 kilometres) exclusive economic zone at Whitsun Reef as "swarming and threatening", while Canada, Australia, the United States, Japan and others have voiced concern about China's intentions, prompting rebukes by Beijing.

Chinese diplomats have said the boats were sheltering from rough seas and no militia were aboard.

In a statement, the Philippines' task force on the South China Sea expressed "deep concern over the continuing unlawful presence (swarming) of the Chinese maritime militia, which did not pull out."

Citing intelligence gathered by its own patrols, the task force said 44 vessels were still at Whitsun Reef and about 200 others were spread out around other parts of the Spratly islands, including near China's militarised manmade islands, where four of its navy boats were seen.

 

 

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