Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee believe it to be more likely that the CCP virus originated within a Chinese laboratory than from an animal, according to their interim report published on May 19.
“There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence … to support a lab leak as the origination of COVID-19,” stated the report, which was led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the committee. “By contrast, little circumstantial evidence has emerged to support the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] claim that COVID-19 was a natural occurrence, having jumped from some other species to humans.”
COVID-19, a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, first appeared in China’s central city of Wuhan in late 2019, when a cluster of cases was linked to a local wet market. More than a year later, the origins of the virus remain unknown, though the focus now has been on the theory that the virus was leaked from a laboratory at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
WIV is home to a Chinese P4 lab—the highest level of biosafety—and it’s located not far from the city’s wet market. A State Department fact sheet released in January stated that the WIV had been conducting experiments on bat coronavirus starting at least as far back as 2016. The institute also carried out “laboratory animal experiments” for the Chinese military since at least 2017.
More importantly, the department stated that it had reason to believe that “several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”
The Chinese regime has denied that the virus’s origin was linked to the WIV and has pushed a natural zoonotic hypothesis—that the virus was transmitted to humans from an animal host. However, Beijing has so far failed to identify the original animal species that allegedly passed the virus on to humans.
According to the report, Beijing tested more than 80,000 animals and still couldn’t identify the original species.
Additionally, the report also pointed to previous lab leaks in China, including one in Beijing in 2004.
The 2004 leak involved China’s National Institute of Virology, where researchers were carrying out experiments using SARS coronavirus. The incident came following the 2002 SARS epidemic, which infected 2,769 people and killed 425 outside of mainland China, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Experts say the numbers inside China are likely much higher than officially reported.
There were also existing safety concerns regarding the WIV. According to the report, health and science experts from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing warned Washington about a possible “new SARS-like pandemic,” after multiple visits to the WIV between late 2017 to March 2018. The experts identified “grave safety concerns” associated with the WIV’s practices that could lead to accidental leaks.
Beijing’s decisions to cover up the outbreak also served as circumstantial evidence to the lab leak theory. According to the report, these moves included failing to acknowledge that the CCP virus was contagious until Jan. 20, 2020, and the decision to close down a WIV virus database.
Beijing also silenced whistleblower doctors in late December 2019 when they tried to warn the public of an “unknown pneumonia” outbreak in Wuhan.
“The WIV and the Chinese government stymied and manipulated the World Health Organization’s 28-day review of COVID-19’s origins,” the report stated as another example of China’s cover-up.
The WHO led a mission to Wuhan earlier this year in an effort to trace the origins of the virus. Its findings, presented in a report released in late March, concluded that the lab leak theory was “extremely unlikely” while the zoonotic hypothesis was a “possible-to-likely pathway.”
Critics have denounced the WHO investigation as lacking independence. Earlier this month, 18 medical experts in biology, epidemiology, immunology, and virology signed a joint letter calling for a “proper investigation” into the virus origins, including examining the lab leak theory.
“To protect American citizens from future pandemics, the U.S. Government must place more pressure on China to allow full, credible investigations of the source of the COVID-19 pandemic and to allow probes of the likelihood that it resulted from a lab leak,” the report concluded.
A previous version of the article incorrectly stated the number of P4 labs in China. There are two P4 labs in China. The Epoch Times regrets the error.