The Wall Street Journal reported in February that co-author Botao Xiao said he had withdrawn the paper because, “The speculation about the possible origins in the post was based on published papers and media, and was not supported by direct proofs.”
4. China Driving Suspicions
Aside from any evidence about starting in a lab–anecdotal or otherwise–China’s early response to the coronavirus may have been a reason that suspicion spread more quickly than the disease itself.
The misinformation from delayed what would have been an early response from the international community. Later, mid-level Chinese government officials accused the U.S. Army of planting the virus in Wuhan.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was one of the earliest members of Congress to raise alarm about the coronavirus.
Cotton’s office wasn’t ready to weigh in on the origins of the virus or whether Congress would investigate. But the senator said China is responsible for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
“China must be held accountable for unleashing this plague on the world,” Cotton told The Daily Signal in a written statement, noting he has introduced legislation to do just that.
In early January, eight Chinese doctors–including Dr. Li Wenliang–warned about the coronavirus. The government brought them in for questioning and condemned them for “making false statements.”
Also in early January, China’s National Health Commission directed that COVID-19 samples from Wuhan be removed and destroyed, Caixin Global reported.
Also that month, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission stopped releasing daily updates of new COVID-19 cases, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Government officials and state-run media later shifted the message, raising questions as to whether the virus originated in China or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is considering defunding WHO for its botched response to the original outbreak.
Asked Wednesday at a press briefing whether China withheld critical information, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo avoided a direct answer.
“You know, this is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency,” Pompeo said, adding:
We’re still working on this problem set. There’s still data that these good people need so that they can perform their analysis of how to both develop therapeutics and a vaccine and to understand where this virus is. So, every country, China included, every country needs to be transparent about what’s gone on in their country.
But Pompeo added of the virus: “It started in China, and so they had that special responsibility to get it right quickly and fast.”
After a tragic occurrence, there is a tendency to search for conspiracy theories, said Thomas Spoehr a former former Army lieutenant general and now the director of Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation.
“We should look for the simplest explanation and believing this escaped from a lab is not the simplest explanation,” Spoehr told The Daily Signal. “Like other forms of influenza, this mutated into something unfortunate.”
Spoehr said China did invite the suspicion.
“Like a witness at a trial that has a reputation for not being truthful and honest with facts, a jury is not likely to believe them,” Spoehr said. “In this case, people are more likely to assume the worst about China and believe it started in a lab.”
This article by Fred Lucas first appeared in The Daily Signal on April 12.