A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has claimed that researchers at the Wuhan lab deserve the Nobel Prize just as calls renew for a harder look into whether the virus that causes COVID-19 could have leaked from the facility.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), hosts China’s first P4 laboratory, the highest biosafety designation that allows it to handle the world’s most dangerous pathogens. The lab is located just a few miles from a major seafood market in the city that Beijing first identified as the source of the virus.
The possibility of an accidental laboratory leak from the Chinese lab was quickly shut down at the start of the pandemic, but new scrutiny from the White House and prominent scientists, as well as evidence of WIV staff becoming sick before the COVID-19 outbreak, have pushed the debate back to center stage.
Zhao Lijian, of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sought to deflect attention on the lab, claiming that the WIV scientists were being faulted because they were the first to identify the COVID-19 genome sequence.
“That does not mean Wuhan is the source of the coronavirus, nor can it be inferred that the coronavirus was made by Chinese scientists,” he said at a June 18 press briefing.
“If those that first publish high-quality viral genomes were to be accused of making the virus, then professor Luc Montagnier, who first discovered Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) would be considered the culprit of AIDS rather than awarded the Nobel Prize, and Mr. Louis Pasteur, who discovered microbes, would be held accountable for the disease-causing bacteria all around the globe.”
By the same analogy, according to Zhao, “the team in Wuhan should be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research on COVID-19, instead of being criticized.”
Zhao’s remarks didn’t sit well with China critic Su Tzu-yun, who described the statement as “a clumsy attempt to cover up the truth.”
Looking at the current evidence, a lab leak seems the most likely source of the virus, Su, who is the director of the Taiwan-based Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told The Epoch Times.
Zhao and other Chinese officials have insisted that the virus came from outside of China, and speculated that the virus may have originated from a U.S. military base and somehow got into Wuhan, or that it was a foreign import that came via frozen food.
While the World Health Organization-led panel declared a lab leak “extremely unlikely,” a phrase that the regime has since repeatedly cited to direct a virus probe to other countries, experts have questioned how much independence the investigators enjoyed in drawing those conclusions.
“More evidence is likely coming out,” Su said. “If the virus did spread from overseas, it should have broken out on a larger scale there. How come it exploded in Wuhan? This doesn’t follow natural logic.
“This is not to discriminate anyone who got this disease—it is unfortunate—but the regime’s intentional coverup is the biggest issue.”
‘Inverting Black and White’
Chinese citizen Zhang Hai, who blames Wuhan officials’ delayed pandemic response for his father’s death in Wuhan, said Zhao was “inverting black and white.”
“To the COVID-19 victims in Wuhan, what he said showed an indifference to lives,” he told The Epoch Times.
“I’m very patriotic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell right from wrong. Crimes are crimes. Can you do things at will just because you control the narratives? I definitely won’t buy that.”
Given the damage that the pandemic has inflicted on the world, “if there is indeed incriminating evidence, those people should be held accountable for war crimes,” he said, calling Zhao’s demand for a Nobel Prize for the WIV researchers “shameless.”
While both Zhao and Shi Zhengli, a lead researcher at the WIV, have accused the West of politicizing the virus tracing issue, Zhang said it was a sign of their “lack of self-assurance.”
“A poor lie reveals the truth,” he said, using a Chinese idiom. “You said you weren’t to blame, then open up to the world for an honest investigation.”
Zhang said the continuing suppression of virus critics, purging the evidence at the Wuhan market, and refusal of an independent probe should arouse suspicions, noting that “even today, no actual COVID death numbers in Wuhan have been published.”
“Chinese people don’t have real freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean we are idiots,” he said. “If a country can’t even treat its citizens kindly, it bespeaks what kind of government this is.”
Zhang is still pursuing lawsuits against authorities for how they handled the outbreak. He said he has been censored from nearly all Chinese social media platforms for his activism. That won’t stop him, he said.
“The more they try to suppress me, the more I will speak out, simple as that.”
Luo Ya contributed to this report.