Wuhan virology lab head rebukes Pompeo's WSJ commentary - 'don't know where he got my quotes from'
Published: Feb 24, 2021 06:22 PM

Mike Pompeo Photo: AFP

By publishing an opinion piece that's lacking in evidence and laden with fallacies co-authored by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, the Worst Secretary of State Ever, who simply wants to keep his political profile after stepping down, the Wall Street Journal has trespassed the bottom line of media integrity and descended into a propaganda machine that sells false information for clicks. 

The opinion piece, titled "China's Reckless Labs Put the World at Risk," was co-authored by Pompeo and Miles Yu, a previous political advisor to Pompeo and a lousy "expert" who is infamous for anti-China opinions. The article implied that China's negligence of biosafety led to the current COVID-19 situation. 

The article, which used the typical technique of grafting one twig on another and twisting experts' comments, met with a torrent of criticism from the public.

It cited Yuan Zhiming, director of the biosafety level 4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), as saying that "The biosafety laboratory is a double-edged sword: It can be used for the benefit of humanity, but can also lead to a disaster."

Yuan told the Global Times on Wednesday that the commentary was a malicious attack and he "did not know where the article got his quotes from."

The so-called quotes the commentary picked up were from an academic paper published in the Chinese Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity in March 2019, entitled "Studies on Developing a Safe Management Standard System for Chinese Biosafety Laboratories." 

The Global Times found out that the quote is a garble quote out of text of the article, and the opinion piece wrongly claimed it under Yuan's name. 

The article was co-authored by five scientists including Yuan, but it clearly stated that since the outbreak of SARS, increasing numbers of biosafety laboratory levels have been established in China. Therefore, creating a specialized and standardized management system for biosafety laboratories has become necessary, and it is one of the key prerequisites to guarantee the effective and safe functioning of high-level biosafety laboratories.

Actually, the WIV has clarified its safety and management system on several occasions, and to this commentary's smear, Yuan said "similar smears will happen in the future."

China's Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang visited the lab on Friday and learned about the institute's work on pathogen identification, virus detection technology development, animal model construction, drug screening and drug and vaccine research during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Wang hailed the institute and the lab's significant role in combating the epidemic, acknowledged their outstanding contributions and researchers' hard work. The minister also told the institute to continue to improve its response to emerging infectious diseases and provide strong scientific and technological support to the cause.

Peter Ben Embarek from the World Health Organization (WHO), who led an expert team on a virus origin tracing mission to Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, said previously that it is "extremely unlikely" that the coronavirus leaked from a lab in that Chinese city. It was more likely that the virus had jumped to humans from an animal, according to Embarek. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed the commentary full of unverified claims, and it warned US politicians like Pompeo that if they try to seek personal gains by relying on anti-China rhetoric after leaving office and continuing to kidnap China-US relations, their efforts are doomed to be in vain.

"Pompeo's claim that the Wuhan lab produced or leaked the virus has long been publicly denied by almost all the world's top scientists and disease control experts. The WHO experts have also repeatedly pointed out that the virus is extremely unlikely to have come from a lab," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in Wednesday's routine press briefing.  

"Pompeo has already lost credibility and become a byword for lies," Wang said.

Right after the opinion piece was published, it met torrents of criticism on Twitter. One Twitter user said that "Well mr. Pompeo We are still waiting (months now) for your 'irrefutable' proof that COVID came out of a China lab... PROOF PLEASE."

Chinese observers said that in choosing to publish the loophole-laden piece, the Wall Street Journal exposed the newspaper's true face to serve as a kind of propaganda machine that runs after clicks rather than truth.

For such a lousy piece, the Wall Street Journal has every reason to reject it, but it was published, which shows its attitude to pander to Pompeo, and the Hudson Institution's conservative and China-bashing views, in order to sell more papers, Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times.

Shen also said that against the backdrop of the US recording 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, the downfall of outspoken COVID-19 warrior New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after revelations of the handling of COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes, and the US government's messy handling of the Texas outage, the Wall Street Journal feels the need to do some China bashing to divert domestic dissatisfaction.

This is not the first time the newspaper has published an outrageous opinion piece from Hudson researchers. In 2020, it published a widely criticized article "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia" authored by Walter Russell Mead, another Hudson member. 

The paper repeatedly refused to apologize for this racist piece despite Beijing's solemn representations, which eventually led to the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters from the Chinese mainland. 

Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, also believed that Pompeo, after stepping down, still seeks to enhance his political standing via smearing China on news platforms. "This is the first time he published such an article as a Hudson member, but it won't be the last."

The Hudson Institute is a conservative institute filled with right-wing researchers and former politicians such as Pompeo. The institute has repeatedly voiced groundless and vicious claims against China, according to Yang. He noted that to pander to rising anti-China sentiment in US political circles, the institute has downgraded itself from what used to be conservative institute to a morass that will indiscriminately choose anyone who claims to be against China.

Yang said that he feels pity for the Wall Street Journal and Pompeo's "collaboration," which seems to feed popular anti-China opinion in the US, but also enhances the country's misunderstanding toward China. 

"Yet the US' deep-rooted cognitive bias will eventually backfire, when such bias has permeated both policy-making and the public. It will propel the US into making wrong decisions," said Yang.