CHINA / SOCIETY
Western countries’ attack on WHO report ‘politically driven’, next stage investigation should be conducted globally: Chinese experts
Published: Mar 31, 2021 05:21 PM
WHO Photo:VCG

Photo:VCG


After a joint WHO-China report on tracing the origins of COVID-19 dismissed the possibility of the virus being leaked from a lab, a conspiracy that serves as ammunition for Western media and politicians to disparage China, a number of China bashers have questioned the impartiality and even asked for a second investigation.

Chinese observers see the accusation as "presumption of guilt" and politically driven. If the investigation is politically guided, there won't be any fair and scientific outcome, said scientists, calling for first stage probes in other countries in order to have a clearer picture of the virus origins. 

A group of 14 countries, including the US, Australia, Canada, and the Czech Republic, raised concerns over the report released by the WHO on Tuesday into the origin of the coronavirus, citing delays and a lack of full access to data.

The White House urged the WHO to take additional steps to determine the origins of COVID-19. "There's a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international and independent experts," the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist from China CDC, believes those who signed the statement are blinded by their political bias. "Why are those people, who did not even come to investigate in China, barking outside the wall? I don't feel like they are speaking for real science on this matter," Zeng told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The epidemiologist said that the report was compiled by scientists who carried out a real investigation in Wuhan, and if anyone for purely political purposes throws mud at this report, it will be pathetic, and "even a blasphemy for science."

Highlights from #WHO-China joint report on coronavirus origins:
-A lab leak was extremely unlikely
-Huanan seafood market was NOT the original source of the outbreak
-It’s important to investigate “potential early events” of COVID-19 cases in different countries
Graphic: Feng Qingyin/GT

Highlights from #WHO-China joint report on coronavirus origins: -A lab leak was "extremely unlikely" -Huanan seafood market was NOT the original source of the outbreak -It’s important to investigate “potential early events” of COVID-19 cases in different countries Graphic: Feng Qingyin/GT


Xin Qiang, a deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University, said that the virus may have many origins and some countries have reported earlier cases than China.  "Why was the investigation only launched in China? Are other countries also in need of an investigation?" he asked. 

The US move was made purely out of political purposes. It has put China in the dock and brought charges, such as being the source of the outbreak and poor response to the crisis, Xin said. "Hence, no matter how many rounds of investigations the US calls for, China would not be able to clear its name."

A senior expert close to the joint team told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that an increasing amount of early data indicates that the outbreak of COVID-19 in other countries occurred earlier than their official reports stated. Therefore, in the spirit of science and responsibility to the global public, and in order to get deeper into the virus origins, the investigation should be broadened, as the existing evidence cannot conclude that the virus originated in China, and there is now a large amount of evidence to prove the possibility of cold chain transmission. 

Some Western media also criticized China for limiting access to data for the research team, while a senior expert close to the joint team said China has already clarified the matter of data access. "We have already shared all the available data with the foreign experts, with full analysis… what the WHO official raised as an issue is about whether the foreign experts could copy that original data and take it away, which involves privacy and relevant laws in China," the expert said. 

Liang Wannian, a member of the WHO-China joint study team, speaks at the WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 9, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

Liang Wannian, a member of the WHO-China joint study team, speaks at the WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 9, 2021. Photo:Xinhua


Liang Wannian, team leader of the Chinese side of the WHO-China joint expert team, already revealed in an exclusive interview with the Global Times recently that to accomplish the arduous task of scientific cooperation and exchange, the Chinese side brought together the relevant institutions and hundreds of scientists and did their best to collect and collate data and conduct a preliminary analysis.

As for the raw data that required special attention, the Chinese side showed it to the WHO experts one by one, such as the early case database and epidemiological survey forms of field use. The Chinese and foreign experts discussed the data analysis methods and phased results, further supplemented and adjusted the data analysis framework and re-analyzed the data, and then output the results, Liang said. 

As for the original data of some cases, due to patient privacy, according to Chinese laws, we could not let the international experts copy and take it out of the country, which they fully understood, he noted. 

Other Chinese experts involved in the joint research have already clarified the matter of data access. Feng Zijian, Deputy Director-General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China's CDC) who is also an expert on the WHO joint team, told a conference on Friday that the joint team has scrutinized all the available sequencing and original data related to the coronavirus that had been collected at China National Center For Bioinformation. 

The raw data issue was also brought up by the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said on Tuesday that the investigation was "not extensive enough" and experts had struggled to access raw information during their four-week visit to Wuhan in January, according to a report of the Guardian.

The anonymous expert said that some of Tedros' statements have drawn a lot of attention in the Western media, but in his opinion, Tedros has been promoting the traceability investigation and a further probe will be a natural result, since the joint study in Wuhan has not reached a definitive conclusion. 

"He is unlikely to be in favor of China, as the WHO, a neutral international organization, must remain objective and independent. There is not really enough data, so it is necessary to carry out investigations in more countries, such as the US and in Europe," the expert said. "China has always supported the work of the WHO and should be alert to the Western media's attempt to politicize Tedros's comments, as it aims to damage the relationship between the WHO and China."

Tedros also said there should be continued examination of the theory that the virus escaped from a Wuhan institute of virology laboratory, even though the report deemed it "extremely unlikely" as a source of the pandemic.

 A Chinese expert from the joint team's animals and environment group, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times there was no coronavirus in any lab before the outbreak, which disproves the lab leak conspiracy. In fact, lab leaks have historically occurred because someone manipulated the pathogen. "Since the coronavirus was never found or existed in any labs, there would be no manipulation, thus a lab leak is completely impossible," the expert said.


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