|Chinese Ambassador H.E. Liu Hongyang's Article "Respect Scientific Nature of Origin-tracing And Say No to Presumption of Guilt" Published on Nation and Daily Times|
On 17 August 2021, an article titled “Respect Scientific Nature of Origin-tracing And Say No to Presumption of Guilt” by H.E. Liu Hongyang, the Chinese Ambassador to Malawi, was published on Nation and Daily Times, the leading newspapers in Malawi. Following is the full text of the article:
In the past one year and plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc in the world, with more than 4.3 million deaths and 203 million people infected. In the face of the pandemic, origin-tracing is of great significance for identifying the source of the SARS-CoV-2, guiding the prevention and control of the pandemic, as well as preventing similar pandemics in the future. However, certain irresponsible country and politicians failed to fight the pandemic at home, but only spread the “political virus” around the world, causing new challenges for the global unity against the pandemic and origin-tracing of the virus. I believe that origin-tracing should be carried out on the basis of scientific principles, and political manipulation should not be tolerated. I would like to share some of my views here.
Being the first to report the virus does not mean being the origin. The origin of the virus is unknown yet.
China is the first country reporting the virus, yet common sense tells us that being the first to report does not mean that China is the origin. On the one hand, China implemented the most restrictive prevention and control measures in the shortest possible time to stem the spread of the virus, which safeguarded people’s life and health, and also won the first victory against the pandemic. On the other hand, in a timely manner, China informed the WHO and other countries, including the US, of the developing situation, and released the genome sequence of the virus. These measures not only won time for the battle against the virus for the whole world, but also laid a solid foundation for antigen detection, drug screening and development of vaccines. However, certain country labeled the virus with names which are unfriendly to China, and then hyped up the so-called “lab leak theory” to slander China, the victim of the pandemic. Reporting first is not the “original sin”, and should never be the basis for “presumption of guilt” by people with ulterior motives.
Researches have shown that the virus has already been spreading in countries including the US, Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, among other countries, before being reported in China. According to the Mirror and Washington Post, an Italian researcher’s paper in November last year pointed out that COVID-19-specific antibodies were detected in 111 of 959 individuals, who were screened for lung cancer. The earliest sample of the above-mentioned was collected in the first week of October 2019, indicating that some of them had been infected in September 2019. According to the latest report from the World News website (wn.com), a news website of the US, it was in 2019 that the US military spread the virus to Europe through the Armed Services Blood Program, and the source of transmission can be traced back to the Fort Detrick Biological Laboratory in the US. The reason why I quote the above research results is to hope that everyone realizes it is necessary to make systemic studies of origin-tracing in multiple regions and multiple orientations.
China has been very cooperative in origin-tracing. The WHO-China joint study report is science-based and authoritative.
China has been treating origin-tracing in an open, transparent, scientific and cooperative attitude. As the first country cooperating with WHO on origin-tracing of the virus, China twice invited WHO experts to China to conduct joint research on origin-tracing. Earlier this year, 17 leading experts from 10 countries including the US, UK, Japan and Australia formed a joint expert group with their 17 Chinese counterparts and conducted a 28-day joint study in China. With the coordination from the Chinese side, they visited wherever they wanted, including 9 places such as the Jinyintan Hospital, Huanan seafood market and Wuhan Institute of Virology. They also met and talked to whomever they wanted, like the medical doctors, lab staffs, researchers, market managers, businessmen, local residents and recovered patients. The experts spoke highly of the Chinese side’s cooperative attitude in origin-tracing studies, as well as the drafting of the joint report. For example, Dr David Heymann, a professor of epidemiology who serves as a special advisor to the WHO, said “the government in China has shared information very freely with the WHO and also with others”. Dr Peter Ben Embarek, who was a Team Lead for the Wuhan field mission, said “Just look at the amount of results there. That will tell you everything about the depth and intensity of the collaboration between the entire whole members of the team.”
On 30 March 2021, WHO released the WHO-China joint study report, concluding that the pathway of lab leak is extremely unlikely, which directly and forcefully refuted the “lab leak theory” created by certain country. The report is supported by more and more evidences, and has become the scientific consensus. Dr Peter Daszak, member of the WHO international expert group and president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit non-governmental organization, said in a interview with CNN, “There is no evidence that this was a virus created in a lab. There is no evidence at all that it ever was in a lab.” Meanwhile, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead on COVID-19 for WHO, suggested that “If you haven’t read that report, if you haven’t read all of the appendices I really ask you to do so because there is a wealth of knowledge that is in there and it clearly outlines the technical approach that is needed.”
Origin-tracing is a serious matter of science, and should not be the tool of political fights.
Origin-tracing is a complex scientific matter that involves many disciplines and experts in many different fields, and should be done by scientists. However, certain country has chosen to ignore the scientific principles and the WHO-China joint study on COVID-19 origins, and has ordered the intelligence agencies to do the job. This is nothing but anti-intellectualism, which will lead to the interference in the course of global origin-tracing and the sabotage of international anti-pandemic cooperation. It is a behaviour of running roughshod over the rights of life and health of the humankind.
Under the pressure from a certain major country, and without getting the approval of all member states, the WHO Secretariat unilaterally put forward the phase 2 origin tracing study plans of SARS-CoV-2 on 16 July 2021. This plan requests to investigate for the second time Wuhan Institute of Virology and other places, and describing the hypothesis that China’s breach of laboratory protocols caused the virus leak as one of the research priorities. The sudden and groundless change of conclusions made by the WHO Secretariat poisons the international cooperation of origin-tracing, undermines the authority of the WHO, and sets a bad precedent of political manipulation in scientific researches.
Before the WHO Secretariat circulated its plan, Chinese experts, with a view to support and coordinate with the WHO efforts to conduct the next phase of origin studies, had submitted to the WHO a Chinese Proposal based on the previous phase of studies jointly conducted by Chinese and the WHO experts and the joint report. The main point of the Proposal is that the second phase should not repeat what has already been conducted during the first phase, especially where conclusive findings were already reached. As of now, more than 70 countries, through writing to the WHO Director General, issuing statements or notes, have expressed that they welcome the WHO-China joint study report and reject politicizing origin-tracing. It shows that fighting against the “political virus”, which is purely man-made, has become the consensus of the international community.
On the morning of 13 August 2021, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu chaired a briefing on COVID-19 origin-tracing for diplomatic envoys in China. Ma Zhaoxu pointed out that China's position on global origin-tracing is consistent and clear-cut. First, origin-tracing is a matter of science. It should be and can only be left to scientists to identify, through scientific research, the virus's zoonotic source and animal-human transmission routes. No country has the right to put its own political interests above people's lives, nor should a matter of science be politicized for the purpose of slandering and attacking other countries. Second, the findings and recommendations of the WHO-China joint study report are widely recognized by the international community and scientists, and must be respected and implemented by all parties, including the WHO. The future work of global origin-tracing should and must proceed from that basis, instead of reinventing the wheel. Third, China has all along supported and will continue to take part in science-based origin-tracing efforts. What China opposes is politicizing origin-tracing, or origin-tracing that goes against the WHA resolution and disregards the joint study report. Fourth, the WHO Secretariat should act on the WHA resolution, conduct thorough consultation with member states on the global origin-tracing work plan, including the follow-up mechanism, and fully respect the views of member states. Very importantly, the plan for origin-tracing involving a particular country must be decided through consultations with the country concerned, as it provides the basis for effective cooperation to be conducted.
At this critical and pressing moment of racing against the mutation of the virus for the fight against pandemic, the existence of the “political virus” will only cast more shadows for the virus to grow and rampage, and slows down our pace to the final victory. With limited time and grim situation, while scientists are working against the time to trace the origin of the virus and find the solution to fight the pandemic, people of all countries should cooperate in solidarity to eliminate both the corona virus and the “political virus” with an objective and impartial attitude and a science-based and rational spirit.