CHINA / SOCIETY
US terrorizes on COVID-19 origins-tracing: official
Blinken-WHO chief talks on origins studies part of Washington's political maneuver: experts
Published: Jul 29, 2021 09:57 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

Chinese diplomats rejected again the political agenda driven by the Biden administration on the COVID-19 origins-tracing and denounced the US government for engaging in a "terror-making" campaign on the matter. As it has become clearer that Washington is turning the origins studies into a political maneuver, more foreign scientists have regretted contributing to the US-led conspiracy theory that has been seriously impeding global efforts in scientific research.  Some believed that the latest meeting between the US and WHO chief was merely "playing politics."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Kuwait on Wednesday, affirming US support for the WHO's plans to conduct additional studies into the COVID-19 origins, including in China, to better understand the current pandemic and prevent future ones, according to a statement on the website of US Department of State. The US top diplomat said in the statement that origins-tracing will be scientific, transparent, expert-led and free from interference. 

"This clearly shows that the director-general is playing politics," a person close to the WHO-China joint team on origins-tracing work told the Global Times on Thursday. For his re-election next year and by including the lab leak theory as part of his request for the next-phase study, the WHO chief has pushed a political agenda into a scientific question and lined up support from the US to help with his re-election, the person said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

It's become an open secret for scientists in China and overseas that the US has been pressuring the WHO on COVID-19 origins-tracing in recent months, as there has been invisible pressure formed after the signal of its return to the international organization in January and announcing to pay the millions of dollars it owed to the WHO. 

The meeting with Blinken also sent a message "to other member states that they will be supporting his re-election as a quid pro quo for him bringing politics into the virus origins work," the person said. 

The Chinese health authority rejected WHO's phase-2 COVID-19 origins study last week, calling it lacking respect to common sense and arrogant to science amid rising politicized moves of the US government on the matter, as the WHO's plan was proposed when the US-led West intensifies the politics-driven conspiracy about a lab leak theory and exerted political pressure on international scientists to give up their scientific position on the origins issue.

After being aware of such ill-intentioned political attempts, some foreign scientists also began to openly call on a scientific and fact-based research on the origins-tracing. For instance, Pamela Bjorkman, a biology professor at the California Institute of Technology, said in a letter quoted by the Xinhua News Agency that she did not anticipate a letter to Science asking for increased investigation into the origins of COVID-19 would be used to promote the lab origins hypothesis. 

She also explained that her motive for adding her name to the letter was assuming that the letter would have the effect of prompting more funding for searching for natural viruses in animal reservoirs, which she has always assumed represent the origins of COVID-19infections in humans. 

Science published an open letter in May entitled "Investigate the origins of COVID-19" saying the probe must "take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data," which has revived the US-led lab leak conspiracy theory targeting a Chinese lab in Wuhan. 

Bjorkman was quoted as saying in the report that she should have been more proactive, should not have signed the letter, or requested more changes in the wording to make her position clear. 

When asked about the latest proposal from the Blinken-Ghebreyesus talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that he wanted to clarify three points. China agrees COVID-19 origins-tracing should be evidence-based, expert-led, and free from interference. But US hyped the "lab leak" theory and ignored relevant clues like to-be-tested blood samples. China took actions to support origins-tracing work on a global scale, and with the WHO-China joint team study, scientists reached a clear conclusion for the phase-one study, so the next-phase study should be conducted on a global scale. 

The US is guilty of three sins in epidemic response and origins-tracing, Zhao said, noting that the US has always put the political maneuver over epidemic prevention, becoming a super virus spreader after failing to contain the outbreak and hiding the true numbers of confirmed infections and the death toll. 

The US government has been engaging in a terror-making campaign on origins-tracing, as from using the term "China virus" to spreading rumors and suppressing scientists. Their actions are no different from practicing "terrorism on origins-tracing," Zhao added. 

Dai Bing, charge d'affaires of China's permanent mission to the UN, also strongly refuted the groundless accusations the US made against China on Wednesday, saying that the US "has completely lost its scientific ethics and moral bottom line" on the origins-tracing issue.

The WHO should not fall into the political trap of the US government, turning itself into a political tool for the Biden administration in wrestling with China, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"The anticipated WHO reform can't become a geopolitical battle to represent values of only few countries, as that would go against the organization's genuine goal of serving global public health," Li said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also affirmed on Thursday that the phase two study on the origins-tracing should not repeat the phase one study, as the WHO-China joint report has already concluded that the lab leak theory was "extremely unlikely," and the next phase should focus on the zoonotic source and reservoir, pushing forward studies in multiple places worldwide. 

However, there are still questions unanswered in the most hard-hit place - the US on the origins-tracing. And if the US government truly supports the origins studies, it should respond to the rising call as an online petition for a probe into the Fort Detrick lab on COVID-19 origins has gathered nearly 18 million signatures as of Thursday, Zhao said.


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