Thursday, June 03, 2021

Beijing Cover-Up

As Katherine Eban detailed in Vanity Fair, the suppression of evidence in mainland China began early and has been continuous. She explains

In early July, the World Health Organization invited the U.S. government to recommend experts for a fact-finding mission to Wuhan, a sign of progress in the long-delayed probe of COVID-19’s origins. Questions about the WHO’s independence from China, the country’s secrecy, and the raging pandemic had turned the anticipated mission into a minefield of international grudges and suspicion.

Within weeks, the U.S. government submitted three names to the WHO: an FDA veterinarian, a CDC epidemiologist, and an NIAID virologist. None were chosen. Instead, only one representative from the U.S. made the cut: Peter Daszak.

Although obviously not responsible for any leak which may have come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Daszak is among the figures at the center of the controversy over the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Daszak is a zoologist and president of the non-profit Eco-Health Alliance, which "has repackaged U.S. governnment grants and allocated them to facilities," including the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

So it is not surprising that Daszak "dismissed U.S. intelligence reports," as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wienbin is seen stating above.  Jamie Metzl explains  “If zoonosis was the origin, it was a validation…of his life work…. But if the pandemic started as part of a lab leak, it had the potential to do to virology what Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did to nuclear science.” A thorough investigation might prove disastrous to Beijing and

It had been evident from the start that China would control who could come and what they could see. In July, when the WHO sent member countries a draft of the terms governing the mission, the PDF document was titled, “CHN and WHO agreed final version,” suggesting that China had preapproved its contents.

Part of the fault lay with the Trump administration, which had failed to counter China’s control over the scope of the mission when it was being hammered out two months earlier. The resolution, forged at the World Health Assembly, called not for a full inquiry into the origins of the pandemic but instead for a mission “to identify the zoonotic source of the virus.” The natural-origin hypothesis was baked into the enterprise. “It was a huge difference that only the Chinese understood,” said Jamie Metzl. “While the [Trump] administration was huffing and puffing, some really important things were happening around the WHO, and the U.S. didn’t have a voice.

On January 14, 2021, Daszak and 12 other international experts arrived in Wuhan to join 17 Chinese experts and an entourage of government minders. They spent two weeks of the monthlong mission quarantined in their hotel rooms. The remaining two-week inquiry was more propaganda than probe, complete with a visit to an exhibit extolling President Xi’s leadership. The team saw almost no raw data, only the Chinese government analysis of it.

They paid one visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where they met with Shi Zhengli, as recounted in an annex to the mission report. One obvious demand would have been access to the WIV’s database of some 22,000 virus samples and sequences, which had been taken offline. At an event convened by a London organization on March 10, Daszak was asked whether the group had made such a request. He said there was no need: Shi Zhengli had stated that the WIV took down the database due to hacking attempts during the pandemic. “Absolutely reasonable,” Daszak said. “And we did not ask to see the data…. As you know, a lot of this work has been conducted with EcoHealth Alliance…. We do basically know what’s in those databases. There is no evidence of viruses closer to SARS-CoV-2 than RaTG13 in those databases, simple as that.”

In fact, the database had been taken offline on September 12, 2019, three months before the official start of the pandemic....

Included in classified intelligence was a report "suggesting that three WIV researchers conducting gain-of-function experiments on coronavirus samples had fallen ill in the autumn of 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak was known to have started."

Despite this and other evidence, the coronavirus may have originated in the wet market in Wuhan. Moreover, as Eban recognizes, "The United States deserves a healthy share of blame as well. Thanks to their unprecedented track record of mendacity and race-baiting, Trump and his allies had less than zero credibilityBut as time goes on, it becomes more difficult to pinpoint the source." Still, "China obviously bears responsibility for stonewalling investigators. Whether it did so out of sheer authoritarian habit or because it had a lab leak to hide is, and may always be, unknown."

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