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China’s reckless laboratories are putting the world at risk

The Chinese Communist Party is obsessed with viruses. The army of scientists claims to have discovered nearly 2,000 new viruses in just over a decade. The past 200 years have taken the rest of the world to discover so much. The party’s negligence with regard to biosafety is more worrying. The costs and risks to world health are enormous, as evidenced by a new coronavirus that escaped Wuhan. This situation cannot continue. The world must hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and punish Beijing if it fails to meet global biosafety standards, including basic transparency requirements.

The latest example of this abuse is unfolding around us. The evidence that the virus came from Wuhan is vast, albeit largely indirect, and most indications point to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, as the source of Covid-1

9. In America, concerns about the site are already widespread and two-sided. The Biden administration said there were “deep concerns” about the World Health Organization’s investigation in the early days of the pandemic, especially Beijing’s interference in the work of investigators.

The world has long known that WIV poses a huge health risk worldwide. Two State Department cables for 2018 warned of its biosafety problems. They even predicted that the ACE2 receptor for SARS-CoV-2, identified by WIV scientists, would allow human-to-human transmission. Yuan Jiming, then director of the WIV’s Level 4 Biosafety Laboratory, warned: “The Biosafety Laboratory is a double-edged sword: it can be used for the benefit of humanity, but it can also lead to disaster.” He listed the shortcomings that prevailed. among Chinese biology laboratories, including the lack of “operational technical support, professional instructions” and “enforceable standards for safety requirements in various protection zones and for inoculation of microbiological animals and equipment”.

The Chinese public noted, with several bloggers claiming that animals carrying WIV viruses are sold as pets. They may even appear in local wet markets. Following Wuhan’s outbreak, a missing blogger asked a WIV researcher to discuss the biosafety laboratory’s practices publicly. The offer was ignored.

Beijing has a moral and legal obligation to take biosafety seriously, especially given the type of research conducted in WIV. In 2015, Dr. Shi Jenli of WIV co-authored an article entitled “The Cluster of Circulating Bat Coronaviruses Showing the Potential for Human Appearance,” in which she acknowledged that her team had created “chimeric” and “hybrid” viruses. from horseshoe bats. . In a 2019 article entitled “Bat Coronavirus in China”, Ms. Shi and her co-authors warned: “It is very likely that future coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS or MERS, will originate from bats and are more likely to do so. happened in China. “At that time, WIV housed tens of thousands of samples from bat viruses and experimental animals.

China has opposed international monitoring of WIV. The lab was built with French help, but China has broken its promise to allow French scientists to participate in basic research there. China then accredited WIV through its own agency as its only Level 4 facility, and the country’s National Health Commission quickly approved it to handle some of the world’s most dangerous viruses. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology completed a comprehensive safety and management study of 75 bioassay laboratories in China in 2016, finding that WIV is not even in the top 20 in terms of quality.

The People’s Liberation Army (NOA) has admitted to developing bioweapons. In 2011, China informed the International Review Conference of the Convention on Biological and Toxic Weapons that its military experts were working on “the creation of man-made pathogens”, “genomics underlying the transformation of pathogens”, “population-specific genetic markers “And” targeted drug delivery technology to facilitate the spread of pathogens. A 2015 PLA study treated the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003 as a “modern genetic weapon” launched by foreign forces. And in January 2021, the State Department confirmed that people had mysteriously contracted WIV in the fall. of 2019 and that WIV is conducting covert research on biological weapons with PLA.

Neglect of Chinese biolabs, especially WIV, was so dangerous that the PLA sent a general to take over the facility shortly after the Wuhan outbreak. Xi Jinping’s first speech on the outbreak highlighted “lessons learned” about “flaws” and “leaking holes” in the management of biological material and the biosecurity system in China. He called for a “new biosecurity law” to become part of the “national security system”.

The recklessness of the Chinese Communist Party already costs the world too much, and its obscurity ensures that this will not be the last such tragedy. He ordered the destruction of virus samples collected from the earliest patients. He banned the release of key data. This silenced journalists, doctors and scientists. And obstructs the WHO investigation. Beijing does not want the world to know the true origins of the coronavirus and its serious biosafety flaws.

The Chinese government needs to change course. It must be open to its biosafety systems, correct its mistakes and limit its dangerous ambitions. Life and livelihood around the world are on the line. We all have a responsibility to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party is not given a free card.

Mr. Pompeo was US Secretary of State (2018-21) and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2017-18). Mr. Yu serves as China’s chief policy and planning adviser to Secretary Pompeo. Both are fellows at the Hudson Institute.

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