By: Austin Lin and Jianli Yang
In its disinformation campaigns helping Putin’s unjust war on Ukraine, China opened a new frontline with the claim that the U.S. created the COVID-19 virus. This once again reminded us of the ongoing battle between truth and untruth about the origin of Covid-19. There must be a sense of urgency so we can address it properly to prevent future pandemics.
In this article, we continue to follow four lines of our previous inquirys and they all converge to an accidental lab leak in Wuhan: 1) CCP gag orders on the origin question and the contrast with SARS-CoV-1 outbreaks in 2003; 2) anti-scientific behaviors of the NIH leaders and a clique of top virologists who favor gain-of-function (GoF) research; 3) uncommon features of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent for COVID-19; 4) new proposals by the White House.
While each piece of data on its own could be dismissed as mere coincidence, the combined independent circumstantial evidence has a multiplier effect. In totality they overwhelmingly favor a leak. The answer is staring in our faces but collectively we lack the courage to call out that the emperor has no clothes.
In order to elucidate the origin of COVID-19, one must understand the genetic makeup of the CCP to fully comprehend its origin-related policy implications. Its ruling motto is total control above all else. There are ~100 million CCP members permeating every aspect of the Chinese society including private enterprises, media and primary schools. Each member must sworn an oath of secrecy.
With the proliferation of mobile devices, the CCP’s capability in individual control has only strengthened. Social apps must be approved and monitored by the government and cell phones are activated via national IDs with location tracking. Other nations also track individuals, however, the invasiveness and pervasiveness of citizen surveillance by the CCP is unchecked. Privacy simply does not exist in China. It is, in essence, a modern-day digitized Stasi and a supercharged Orwellian party-state.
With this context in mind, the bold-face lie was obvious when the CCP told the world in January 2021 that it hasn’t tested the Wuhan blood bank due to “privacy” concerns. It is with 100% certainty that Xi Jinping needed to ascertain the origin in the most urgent way possible. For sure China has tested earlier samples and turned over all other stones.
The only pertinent question left is if the CCP was covering up a zoonotic origin or a lab leak – as Wuhan hosts research labs doing GoF experiments with novel coronaviruses. If blood samples dated earlier than December 2019 were all negative, the result would provide tremendous supporting evidence to CCP’s official market origin claim and be shared long ago. The only logical deduction is that the result contradicted the zoonotic position thus cannot be released. Not surprisingly, there are multiple independent accounts of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in humans prior to December.
Given its nation-wide surveillance system, it is with equal certainty that China had tracked down all food handlers and tested all animal farms around Wuhan. The government was so confident of no infection that they released nearby farm animals into the wild instead of culling them for safety; in contrast, pets were mercilessly slaughtered during lockdowns. They further opened the bat caves nearby Wuhan to tourists with not a care about supposed zoonotic risks. An additional 80,000 animals tested negative beyond Wuhan.
While data for a zoonotic origin kept failing to materialize, the circumstantial evidence for a leak cumulated over time. In January 2020, an internal gag order had already been issued and a Major General was deployed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The CCP has absolute control over the military. Moreover, WIV took down its virus database in late 2019 and stayed down to this day. If the Wuhan wet market was the originating site, why the need to place WIV under military control and cut the database access?
On February 9, 2020, James Le Duc (former director of Galveston National Lab) privately wrote to his counterpart at WIV, kindly inquiring about a possible lab accident. He did not get a single word back, not even a ‘hello’ from a friend he had coauthored previously.
By March 03, 2020, a national-wide gag order concerning COVID-19 origin was issued directly from Xi. Only the CCP-approved narratives on the origin matter are permitted. In this light, one must cast healthy skepticism over pandemic data and papers out of China. It should be no surprise when a series of research articles proclaiming pangolins as the likely host in early 2020 turned out to be false later!
In contrast, when SARS-CoV-1 outbreaks happened in 2003, the animal host was found, its genetics readily published, and market traders tracked all within months. SARS-CoV-1 fatality rate was 10x that of SARS-CoV-2 and also spread internationally, but China did not issue gag orders on the origin nor involve the military.
While the CCP dealing in secrecy is expected, the most shocking responses come from the renowned NIH under the leadership of Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci. One fully expected the NIH to dive into the origin question with urgency, objectivity and transparency. What we got, however, was obstruction, redaction and leak-as-conspiracy toxic labeling. Collins even assumed the role of a diplomat, prioritizing “international harmony” right after a critical NIH meeting with a clique of Western virologists whose opinions on SARS-CoV-2 changed from possibly “engineered” to “100% natural” within days.
All these are anti-scientific behaviors in every possible way, and antithesis to the guiding principles of NIH. The notes from that secretive NIH meeting on February 1, 2020, were fully redacted, as did 292 pages relating to virus research in Wuhan labs. Does NIH really wish to destroy its well-earned reputation with non-transparency and repeated missteps over a zoonotic event? Maybe NIH’s decade-long support for GoF research is the real distorting force in their responses.
In a recent revelation, virologist Kristian Andersen offered to remove a preprint that contradicts China’s market-origin timeline of COVID-19 index cases on a NIH conference call in June 2021; Andersen was invited by Collins and Fauci. The preprint analysis was based on SARS-CoV-2 sequences that were deleted by NIH at Chinese scientists’ unprecedented request. If Collins and Fauci truly cared for COVID-19’s origin, they’d immediately track down all missing sequences. They did not!
Taken together actions of the CCP and NIH, some oddities about SARS-CoV-2 genetics deserve more scrutiny. It contains an enzyme named furin cleavage site (FCS) that increases viral transmission efficiency; it is a critical feature that enables SARS-CoV-2 to become pandemic. No other beta coronaviruses prior to SARS-CoV-2 have FCS.
Suspiciously, the idea of inserting FCS to novel coronavirus was proposed in 2018 in a collaboration between WIV and its US-based partners. When SARS-CoV-2 was first analyzed by this group of virologists, they somehow ‘missed’ the striking FCS feature. Imagine Edmund Hillary’s quest to climb Mount Everest but skipping its highest peak. Another genetic outlier is the lack of rapid early mutations for SARS-CoV-2 which is atypical for a zoonotic jump.
Actions speak louder than words. The White House released its plan for “pandemic preparedness.” Billions are budgeted to “strengthen biosafety and biosecurity practices domestically and globally.” Zero dollars are allocated for improving sanitation at wet markets or slaughterhouses; zero mention is made of regulating wildlife trades. The logical conclusion is that the U.S. government knows more than it shares with the public. After the end of a 90-day intelligence review in 2021 on the origin of COVID-19, one federal agency came back with a moderate level of confidence that it was lab-related. As far back as early 2020, the State Department was already leaning toward a lab accident as it was the “most likely but least probed.” The U.K. government concurred privately.
Keeping origin-related information classified gets harder to justify with time. A lack of transparency only brews untold political toxicity. Fauci had dismissed the origin question as a “shiny object that will go away.” It will not! Americans can’t agree on the direction of sunset but majority from both parties believes COVID-19 likely leaked from a lab. If we can close the 737 Max production line over hundreds of fatalities, surely we can hold one congressional hearing on the pandemic origin that is 100,000x more deadly.
There are many shades to the origin of COVID-19 answer. It has elements of the carelessness of the Chernobyl meltdown, hubris of creating genome-edited babies, arrogance of risk-taking exemplified by the 2008 financial crisis, and deception at the core of Theranos.
Dr. Austin Lin is a scientist at the State University of New York and consultant to Citizen Power Initiatives for China.
Dr. Jianli Yang, a former political prisoner of China and a Tiananmen Massacre survivor, is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and the author of For Us, The Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth.