China calls COVID ‘lab leak’ theory a lie
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China calls COVID ‘lab leak’ theory a lie

China has attacked the theory that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated as a leak from a Chinese lab as a politically motivated lie.

The attack follows the World Health Organization in its strongest terms yet recommending that a more in-depth investigation be carried out to determine whether a laboratory accident could be the cause.

China calls COVID 'lab leak' theory a lie

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian dismissed allegations that China had not fully cooperated with investigators, saying it welcomed a scientific inquiry but rejected any political manipulation.

He also reiterated the call for an investigation into “highly suspicious labs like Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina” in the United States, where China has suggested without evidence that the US was developing the coronavirus as a bioweapon.

“The lab leak theory is completely a lie concocted by anti-Chinese forces for political purposes, which has nothing to do with science,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

“We have always supported and participated in science-based global virus detection, but we were vehemently against any form of political manipulation,” he said.

Zhao said China has significantly contributed to virus detection and has shared most of the data and research results.

That “fully reflects China’s open, transparent, and accountable stance, as well as its support for the work of the WHO and the advisory group,” he said.

The WHO’s position in a Thursday report marks a sharp reversal from the UN Health Organization’s first assessment of the pandemic’s origins. It comes after many critics accused the WHO of being too quick to reject or downplay a lab leak theory that put Chinese officials on the defensive.

After a tightly controlled visit to China last year, the WHO concluded it was “extremely unlikely” that the coronavirus would have spread to humans from a lab in Wuhan. Many scientists suspect that the coronavirus jumped from bats to humans, possibly via another animal.

However, in Thursday’s report, the WHO expert group said “key data” to explain how the pandemic began was still lacking. The scientists said the group would “remain open to any scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow for a comprehensive testing of all reasonable hypotheses.”

Identifying the source of disease in animals typically takes years. It took more than a decade for scientists to pinpoint the species of bats that were the natural reservoir for SARS, a relative of COVID-19.

The WHO expert group also noted that since laboratory accidents have caused some outbreaks in the past, the highly politicized theory could not be discounted.