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Coronavirus

[Bookmark] Evidence Stacks Up: COVID-19 Emerged from the Wuhan Lab

If China is guilty of launching a biological war, it must not be allowed to go scot-free. Men, women, elderly, and children are dying inside their homes, on the roads, and in hospitals all over the world.

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Bookmark is a JAPAN Forward feature that gives you long reads for the weekend. Each edition introduces one overarching thought that branches off to a wide variety of themes. Our hope is for readers to find new depths and perspectives to explore and enjoy.

First of three parts
Part 2: Why China Labs are Suspect: Military Studies Genetic Weapons for ‘Bloodless Victory’
Part 3: Carrot and Stick Nations Should Make China Release Info on COVID-19 Origins

As more investigation, observation, and inference come out, the 2019 Wuhan Lab leak theory is gaining traction across the United States and the world. 

Since December 1, 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 infection has resulted in more than 3.8 million deaths globally. That communist China may well have employed this as a bioweapon to unleash a biological war on the world cannot be dismissed any longer as merely a conspiracy theory to slice China politically.

In my May 5, 2021, essay ”What did China Make in the Wuhan Lab?” published in JAPAN Forward, I highlighted the wariness surrounding the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s top-level biosafety research laboratory (BSL-4), which houses one of the largest collections of bat samples and bat-virus strains in the world and hazardously works on coronaviruses. WIV’s lead coronavirus researcher, Shi Zhengli, colloquially referred to as “Bat Woman,” along with her team, is known to have performed multiple “gain-of-function” research — high-profile experiments making pathogens lethally infectious.

According to a 2015 research paper jointly by Shi Zhengli and the University of North Carolina epidemiologist Ralph Baric, the spike protein of a novel coronavirus could infect human cells when using mice as subjects. When the protein from a Chinese rufous horseshoe bat was inserted into the molecular structure of the SARS virus from 2002, a new, infectious pathogen was created. From 2017 onwards in particular, the “civilian research” under Shi’s supervision has never been made public, thereby raising critical concerns.

The January 15, 2021, U.S. State Department’s”Fact Sheet: Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology” describes the latter as a facility conducting classified military research, and hiding it, underlining the dark reality of each and every one of China’s laboratories — that they are state-owned enterprises, operating and controlled entirely by the People’s Liberation Army or its subsidiary units. That holds true, most of all, in the case of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The June 3, 2021, Vanity Fair essay ”Viral Inflection: The Lab-Leak Theory” by Katherine Eban significantly cites a February 2020 research paper co-authored by two Chinese scientists, based at separate Wuhan universities, which appeared online as a preprint. I attempted to raise the fundamental question: How did a novel bat coronavirus get to a major metropolis of 11 million people in central China, in the dead of winter when most bats were hibernating, and turn a market where bats weren’t sold into the epicenter of an outbreak? 

The researchers answered: “We screened the area around the seafood market and identified two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus.” The first was the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which sat just 280 meters from the Huanan market and had been known to collect hundreds of bat samples. The second, the researchers wrote, was the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

The paper’s shockingly candid conclusion on COVID-19 was: “The killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan…. Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from city center and other densely populated places.” 

Unsurprisingly, almost as soon as the paper appeared on the internet, it disappeared.

My March 25, 2020, essay,”Biological Weapons the focus of China’s Military Research in the Last 20 Years,” put forth, in detail, literature coming out of China, highlighting the Chinese military’s intense focus on contemporary advances in domains of biological warfare, biotechnology, and genetic engineering. Beijing’s strategic writings and research consistently argue that advances in biology are contributing to changing the form or character (形态) of conflict. 

Moreover, in the book Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons — compiled by a team of 18 authors, 11 of whom worked at China’s Air Force Medical University — the authors explore issues surrounding the development of bioweapons capabilities. Research has found that China’s senior military officials have often argued that World War III will be fought with biological weapons, and have boasted of plans to sicken and kill with engineered pathogens.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s former political adviser, Steve Bannon, along with exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, raised alarm that China had developed the disease as a bioweapon and purposefully unleashed it on the world, only to be supported by Trump himself moving the lab-leak hypothesis in April 2020. 

Meantime, a small group within the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance acquired classified intelligence suggesting that three WIV researchers conducting “gain-of-function” experiments on coronavirus samples had fallen ill in the autumn of 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak was known to have started.

Wuhan Institute of Virology

Compellingly, every piece of evidence continues to stack up to suggest that the COVID-19 virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Chinese Communist Party’s cover up, not just of the outbreak’s severity but also of the pandemic “originating” in Wuhan, appallingly continues, while millions have died, and continue to die, globally.

On May 26, 2021, mounting questions seemingly forced President Joe Biden to issue a statement acknowledging that the U.S. intelligence community had “coalesced around two likely scenarios.” It was announced that he had asked for a more definitive conclusion within three months, reporting on whether the COVID-19’s virus’s origins in China were from infected animals or a laboratory leak. His statement noted, “The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19.” 

Regrettably, Biden also laid down a marker that the true source may never be known. Given the pugnacious steps a bellicose China undertook to block a transparent investigation, the Wuhan coverup continues to put every single human life at a flagrant risk of facing the next pandemic.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo co-authored a June 7, 2021, opinion piece in the Washington Post, calling for a Biden-led coalition to punish China’s COVID wrongdoing. Pompeo, who had served as Secretary of State (2018-2021) and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2017-2018), argues that the malfeasance of the Chinese Communist Party sped the coronavirus into an unsuspecting world. Biden has an opportunity and responsibility to lead a fair, effective international response. 

Pompeo recalls how for weeks in late 2019 and early 2020, as the coronavirus was loose in China and people fell ill, Beijing covered up its dangers, exponentially accelerating international harm. Even as CCP leaders eventually imposed domestic restrictions, they allowed unwitting travelers to visit infected zones and then spread disease and death abroad.

The world needs to understand. If China is guilty of launching a biological war on purpose, it must certainly not be allowed to go scot-free for this barefaced crime against humanity as innocent men, women, elderly, and children, are dying inside their homes, on the roads, and in hospitals all over the world. 

The leading democracies need to come together and coax China to come clean on its viral research activities at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If this fails, it is time to impose heavy costs on the Chinese government, the Communist Party of China, and its leadership beginning with Xi Jinping. 

The world needs to wake up before it is too late. Or is it already?

Author: Dr. Monika Chansoria

Dr. Monika Chansoria is a senior fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the JIIA or any other organization with which the author is affiliated. She tweets @MonikaChansoria. Find other articles by Dr. Chansoria here on JAPAN Forward.

Dr. Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. Previously, she has held appointments at the Sandia National Laboratories (U.S.), Hokkaido University (Sapporo, Japan) and as Associate Director of Studies at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris). She specializes in contemporary Asian security and weapons’ proliferation issues, nuclear strategy, and, Great Power politics and strategy in the Indo-Pacific. Dr. Chansoria has authored five books on Asia’s security affairs, including “China, Japan and Senkaku Islands: Conflict in the East China Sea Amid an American Shadow” (Routledge © 2018) and “Nuclear China: A Veiled Secret” (2014) among others. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of The Japan Institute of International Affairs or any other organization with which the author is affiliated. She tweets @MonikaChansoria