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Home > Press and Media Service > Embassy Spokesperson's Remarks
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Remarks on the Issue of Origin Studying of the COVID-19(2)
2021/07/24

Question: The Financial Times reported that scientists from two labs in Italy, including the cancer research centre Istituto Nazionale Tumori in Milan, wrote in a new paper published on July 19 that retesting of a small number of pre-pandemic blood samples had indicated the presence of antibodies normally observed after coronavirus infections. According to Washington Post, on July 20, in response to the statement of "lab leak" from the Wuhan Institute of Virology by Republican senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, Dr. Fauci shot back, "I totally resent that. And if anybody's lying here, senator, it is you." How do you comment on that?

Spokesperson: I'd like to share some information on the press conference about origin-tracing of COVID-19 held by the State Council Information Office (SCIO) this morning before I answer your question.

As to the WHO-China joint report, the Chinese side said that more and more scientific evidence shows that this report is a valuable and authoritative one that can stand the test of science and history. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has never designed, manufactured or leaked novel coronavirus, nor has it conducted any gain-of-function studies on coronavirus. So far, none of the staff and graduate students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology has contracted the novel coronavirus. As to the illness of miners in Mojiang County, Yunnan province, we did not detect bat coronavirus in the serum samples of the miners through nucleic acid, antibody and genome sequencing tests. This suggests that these cases are unrelated to COVID-19.

At the press conference, China once again clarified its position and attitude on the next phase of origin-tracing, that is, the work must be carried out in accordance with scientific principles and rules. China always supports the tracing of origin in a scientific manner and opposes politicizing of origins study. The second phase of origin-tracing should be extended on the basis of the first phase, guided by the relevant WHO resolutions, and carried out after full discussion and consultation among member states. The work that has already been done in the first phase should not be repeated, especially when a clear conclusion has been reached. Instead, we should promote origin-tracing on the basis of full and extensive consultations among member states, including search of early cases in various places and countries around the world.

With regard to your question, I want to stress that for some time, more and more reports have pointed to separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world in the latter half of 2019, and at least five states in the US alone had earlier COVID-19 infections before the first officially reported confirmed case. This again shows that origin-tracing of COVID-19 is a complex scientific matter, which calls for a global collaboration of scientists with a global perspective. However, what we can see is that some people in the US still ignore science and facts. Obsessed with political manipulation, they are hyping up the so-called "lab leak theory", advocating intelligence-led origins study, suppressing and threatening experts and scholars who are making an objective and rational voice, in an attempt to shift responsibility for their botched epidemic response by discrediting other countries. Some individuals in the US put politics above science and selfish political gain above people's lives and health, which in large part accounts for the poor epidemic response.

On the issue of origin-tracing, some people in the US may indeed have a guilty conscience. In June, Vanity Fair revealed an internal warning from the US government against an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus that could open a can of worms. In fact, the US has remained silent on the serious concerns raised by the international community about Fort Detrick and the more than 200 biological laboratories overseas. The US side must understand that the international community, including China, has every reason to raise questions about Fort Detrick, which has a poor track record and is notorious for breaches in lab and contaminant leak, and demand clarification and explanation from the US side and call on the WHO to conduct a thorough investigation into it. This requirement is not only for tracing the origin of COVID-19, but also for the safety of people in all countries. The questioning will not end until the US side gives a reasonable explanation.

Question:The WHO Secretariat notified its member states of its work plan on the second-phase origins study on July 16 and asked them to give feedback before July 23. Has China submitted its feedback to the WHO? Will China participate in the second phase of origins study?

Spokesperson: At the briefing with WHO member states on July 16, China and some other countries already made clear their basic positions on WHO's work plan on the second-phase origins study proposed by the WHO Secretariat. The Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva has also further stated its view and proposition in written form. We will continue to put forward China's proposal. I'd like to stress the following points:

First, this work plan is inconsistent with the requirements of the resolution of the 73rd WHA. The resolution clearly stipulates that the WHO Secretary-General will continue to work closely with member states to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population. This means that the formulation of the next-phase origin tracing work plan need to be led by WHO member states, and the WHO has to reach consensus with its members states after full consultation.

Second, this work plan is inconsistent with the conclusions and recommendations of the WHO-China joint mission report. The report was compiled by a joint team of experts from WHO and China, which is the China Part of the WHO-convened global study of origins of SARS-CoV-2. The authoritative conclusions and scientific recommendations in the report should serve as the important foundation for next-phase global origins study.

China, as well as many other WHO member states, noted with regret that the work plan was heavily disrupted by politicization and was a document that lost scientific principles and lacked a spirit of cooperation. Let me give you an example. The WHO-China joint mission report clearly concluded that lab leak is extremely unlikely, and there is broad consensus in the international scientific community on this. However, this work plan still lists the hypothesis that "a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research" as a research priority, and deliberately ignores important research directions including the early cases globally and cold-chain transmission of the virus. One cannot help but think that this work plan is made to echo the "lab leak theory" advocated by certain countries such as the United States. And the lack of transparency in the drafting process also added to the suspicion that the work plan is the product of political manipulation.

To conclude, I want to stress that China always attaches great importance to the issue of origin-tracing and will continue to advance its own research in this respect. At the same time, as a leading country in cooperation with WHO on origins study, China will continue to actively participate in the next phase of global origin-tracing cooperation. We hope that the WHO will uphold the spirit of science, professionalism and objectivity, work with the international community to safeguard the scientific nature and seriousness of the origins study, resist the retrogressive trend of politicizing the issue of origin-tracing, and jointly maintain a sound atmosphere for global anti-epidemic cooperation.

Question:In response to a question concerning WHO's plan of phase two origin tracing at a briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said "We are deeply disappointed (at the Chinese side). Their position is irresponsible and, frankly, dangerous...we continue to call for China to provide the needed access to data and samples. This is about saving lives in the future, and it's not a time to be stonewalling." What's your comment?

Spokesperson: The slander and denigration against China by some individuals in the US are disregarding common sense and defying science. China categorically rejects that.

In the face of the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, China contained the rising spread of the virus in little more than a single month; in around two months, the daily increase in domestic coronavirus cases was reduced to single digits; and in approximately three months, a decisive victory was secured in the battle against the epidemic. China has not only taken the lead in bringing the epidemic under control at home, but also provided more than 300 billion masks, 3.7 billion protective gears, 4.8 billion testing kits and other anti-epidemic supplies to more than 200 countries and regions, and over 600 million doses of vaccines to other countries, making an important contribution to the global fight against the epidemic. China's fight against COVID-19 can stand the test of history and the scrutiny of the people.

It is what the US has done that deeply disappoints its own people and the international community. Up to now, over 35 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and over 600,000 already lost their lives to the virus. Core indicators of the epidemic, such as daily new confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths, are all on the rebound. Compared to the white people, ethnic minorities in the US have a much higher risk of infection, hospitalization and death but a far lower rate of vaccination, with unevenly distributed medical resources. The US has fallen into the quagmire of "deterioration-mitigation-resurgence", but certain individuals still puts their selfish political gains above science. What they did is called extremely irresponsible, which has failed its own people and disappointed the world.

China has been open and transparent on the issue of origin-tracing and invited WHO experts to China twice. The experts went to every place they asked to see, and met everyone they wanted to meet. However, the US has yet to respond to the reports that there may have been COVID-19 cases earlier than had initially been reported. The National Institutes of Health found evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections which was present in five states in the US as far back as December 2019. In Florida, 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms before any cases were announced to the public. The mayor of Belleville, New Jersey was sick with the virus in November 2019, over two months earlier than the first confirmed case in the US. Patients of the EVALI outbreak in July 2019 in several states in the US have symptoms highly similar to that of COVID-19. Donated blood check-ups in nine US states found that 106 blood samples, ranging from December 13, 2019 to January 17, 2020, tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. And what's on this list also includes Fort Detrick lab repeatedly questioned by the public and the over 200 bio labs of the US overseas. The US has all along clammed up and turned a deaf ear to the doubts and concerns of media and the public, which is more than dangerous.

The virus is a common enemy of mankind. Both prevention and treatment require a united response. Origin-tracing is a major and complex scientific issue, and it requires the collaboration of scientists around the world, as well as the joint efforts and cooperation of governments and people of all countries. Only by following the path of science and conducting science-based origins study with firm confidence, scientific attitude, scientific method and scientific facts can we finally uncover the truth. The act of politicizing the origins study and stigmatizing the epidemic will only be met with a public outcry and firm opposition from the international community and is doomed to fail.

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