Update: China says ‘no’ to US smears as over 10 million Chinese petition for Fort Detrick probe
Published: Jul 23, 2021 09:58 PM Updated: Jul 24, 2021 10:52 PM
Research personnel work inside the bio-level 4 lab at the USAMRIID at Fort Detrick on September 26, 2002.
Photo: AFP

Research personnel work inside the bio-level 4 lab at the USAMRIID at Fort Detrick on September 26, 2002. Photo: AFP

An open letter demanding that the World Health Organization (WHO) investigate Fort Detrick has garnered over 10 million signatures in less than a week from Chinese netizens outraged by the US' tightened politicization of COVID-19 origins. 

Chinese observers said the strong appeal shows that Chinese people will not stop questioning the American lab until the US gives a reasonable explanation, and they also urged the WHO to truly play its coordinating role based on science and objectivity rather than becoming a political tool of the US. 

But the Biden administration tightened its efforts to weaponize the COVID-19 origins issue to isolate China internationally and shift the blame of its own failure in the COVID-19 response, which made itself equally vicious with its own aggressive anti-vaccination extremists, and the consequence was that more Americans will pay with their lives, Chinese observers said, after the White House claimed China rejecting WHO's phase 2 COVID-19 origins plan was irresponsible and dangerous. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at Thursday's media briefing that the US was deeply disappointed by China's position on WHO's phase two study. 

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at Friday's media briefing that some people in the US used the COVID-19 issue to smear China, revealing their disregard for common sense and arrogance toward science. China said no to these tactics.

Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday that the WHO's phase 2 origins study plan was a shameful compromise under US pressure, and the US tried to turn the COVID-19 origins issue into a significant weapon for its China strategy. 

"The US is not only the biggest victim of the pandemic in term of the number of cases and deaths, but also the biggest villain," Lü said, noting US politicizing COVID-19 origins will hurt global cooperation and threaten more lives. 

WHO on July 16 proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including "audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan," calling for "transparency" from authorities, which catered to the US' hype of a "lab leak" theory. 

Zhao said the fact that it lacks transparency in the drafting process raises people's doubts that the WHO's plan is the product of political manipulation.

Many scientists around the world said the suggestions from the WHO on lab audits and others were politically motivated, not scientifically based, a source close to the WHO-China joint study on COVID-19 origins in early 2021 told the Global Times on Friday. 

The source said the WHO has shifted significantly from recommendations laid out in the joint WHO-China study report. 

"It seems that the WHO chief has given in to political pressure from a small number of member states. This is politics leading science, and it will significantly delay the next steps, making tracing even more difficult," the source warned. 



The WHO was the only global public health organization that could coordinate member states on the COVID-19 response, and succumbing to US pressure will deeply hurt its credibility and role in the long run, analysts said. 

On Thursday, Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said that it's impossible for China to accept WHO's plan which lacks respect for common sense and is arrogant toward science. 

China will continue its own study on COVID-19 origins, and as the first country cooperating with the WHO on the study, China will actively participate in the next stage global study, Zhao said. 

Chinese health professionals and experts believe that the next phase study should be conducted in more countries, not places which have been inspected.

And for the over 10 million Chinese netizens, top on their list was Fort Detrick. 

A group of Chinese netizens drafted an open letter urging the WHO to investigate Fort Detrick, and entrusted the Global Times with posting the letter on WeChat and Weibo on July 17 to solicit a public response. As of Saturday night, more than 10 million Chinese have signed it. 

They said in the letter that to prevent the next epidemic, the WHO should pay special attention to labs that are conducting studies on dangerous viruses or even biochemical weapons. The open letter particularly noted the Fort Detrick lab, which stores the most deadly and infectious viruses in the world, including Ebola, smallpox, SARS, MERS and the novel coronavirus. 

Lü said the priority now is to conduct origins investigation in the US. And if the US rejects it, then the US is being irresponsible to the world, and Joe Biden is also being irresponsible to its citizens. 

Anti-science hurts US    

COVID-19 cases and deaths are surging again in the US this week as the highly transmissible Delta variant is taking hold and vaccination efforts are stagnating in the country.

Along with the rapidly surging cases was the increasingly fierce anti-vaccination campaign and demonization of scientists. 

Disinformation about vaccines, including that it could cause infertility or alter people's DNA, has been widely spread in the US.  

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said at a White House's press conference last week that the spread of misinformation throughout the pandemic has cost unnecessary loss of life and infections. 

American scientists were under attack, some from politicians, for promoting science and vaccination. 

Peter Hotez, a professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas, tweeted on Thursday that anti-science aggression from the far-right targeted and demonized individual scientists, "labeling us murderers," he said, adding "Even elected members of US Congress, red state governors, cable news, awful."

As of Thursday, only 48.8 percent of the American population was fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times on Friday that the US' anti-vaccine and anti-science campaign will lead to severe consequences. 

"It will greatly cripple its nationwide vaccination campaign, or even make it a failure," he said, noting that the US needs to have about 70 percent of its people vaccinated for herd immunity.

Analysts said that US politicization of COVID-19 in its country and in the world will not only plunge itself into a dilemma of frequent rebound of the COVID-19 and will seriously delay the global control of the pandemic. 

"It's not because the virus was so strong, but it's about US politicization that makes an end to the pandemic remote," Feng said.