China urges US to stop politicizing COVID origins-tracing after bill signed
Published: Mar 21, 2023 10:11 PM
Cartoon produced by Xinhua shows US President Joe Biden turning to the intelligence community for a COVID-19 virus origins story. Photo: Xinhua

Cartoon produced by Xinhua shows US President Joe Biden turning to the intelligence community for a COVID-19 virus origins story. Photo: Xinhua

China on Tuesday urged the US to stop politicizing the COVID-19 origins-tracing in strong opposition to US President Joe Biden's signing of a bill that requires the so-called declassification of information related to COVID-19 origins-tracing which hypes up "lab-leak" hypothesis without any evidence. 

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, expressed China's strong dissatisfaction at Tuesday's press briefing over the bill saying it severely distorts facts, fabricates false information, hypes up "lab-leak theory" without any evidence, and smears and attacks China. 

The legislation - the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 - passed by the US Senate and House earlier this month and Biden signed the bill into law on Monday.

"My Administration will continue to review all classified information relating to COVID-19's origins, including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Biden claimed in a statement released by the White House. 

Wang condemned the US for not making any responsible moves, except making irresponsible remarks on the World Health Organization works in tracing origins and repressing scientists who uphold conscience in answering a question asked by the Global Times reporter.

Politicizing the COVID-19 origins-tracing will only hinder global tracing and scientific cooperation, divide global solidarity in the fight against COVID-19, and undermine the global health governance mechanism, Wang warned, urging the US to stop politicizing origins-tracing and respond to reasonable concerns from the international community, including sharing their suspected cases, open up Fort Detricks and other bio-labs, Wang noted.

Topics related to COVID-19 are hyperpolitical in the US, not purely scientific. COVID-19 has never been treated as a non-political issue from Donald Trump's administration to the current one, which implies scientific tracing of COVID-19 origins does not cater to the US at all, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Allowing intelligence department to deal with a matter of science tells everything. The intelligence agencies in the US in the past 30 years have been notorious for providing "pandering" analysis that distorts the truth to meet specific political needs, derailing from its original functions to provide independent analyses that are close to facts to decision-makers, Li said. 

Intelligence reports have been grossly used to stigmatize, demonize and defame China, Li said, warning the politicization of intelligence is bound to lead to major setbacks in US foreign policy.

A source close to the WHO Origins team who is following the COVID origins issue closely told the Global Times on Tuesday that it will be important to see if the data that the US intelligence agencies have looked at includes verifiable scientific evidence that hasn't been seen before. 

This may include DNA sequencing, testing of individuals, verifiable evidence of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 at sites or times that haven't been reported previously. This will need to be weighed against the evidence mounting up that points to an origin in the wildlife trade which is substantial and based on primary scientific data and analysis, including undertaken by scientists in China and shared with the WHO origins study, the anonymous source said.

China's position on the origins-tracing has been consistent - we support and participate into global scientific origins-tracing and oppose any forms of political manipulation, said the spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. 

China attaches great importance to and actively participates in global traceability scientific cooperation, but to solve this serious and complex scientific issue, global scientific cooperation is needed, a Chinese member of the WHO-China joint team told the Global Times, calling for an open and transparent attitude from individual countries on this matter.

Recent genetic materials collected at a Chinese market suggested raccoon dog DNA comingled with the virus. Science quoted Kristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at Scripps Research who attended the meeting and is one of the scientists analyzing the new data, saying "the data does point even further to a market origin."

"Looking at all available data, of course, it suggests that it's much more likely that we have a zoonotic origin," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, told Science magazine.

"These data do not provide a definitive answer to how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important to moving us closer to that answer," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.