CHINA covered up claims that the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology ordered scientists not to talk about Covid, bombshell emails have revealed.
US State Department correspondence, obtained through freedom of information requests, points to more evidence of how the Communist Party tried to control the narrative during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of VirologyCredit: Reuters
Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli inside the laboratory in WuhanCredit: AFP
Emails uncovered by US Right to Know (USRTK) – a public health research non-profit organisation – show how the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) told staff “not to discuss Covid-19” in January 2020.
And a memo shared by Terminus 2049 – a crowd-sourced project which archives materials censored by Chinese media outlets – showed the alleged directive from the top of the lab.
It appears to show the director general of the Wuhan lab emailing staff to “strictly prohibit” them from speaking publicly about “the unknown causes” of the virus.
Professor Wang Yanyi, the director, has previously denied all allegations of a leak and claimed her facility is “100 per cent” safe.
The official diplomatic cables obtained by USRTK cite a Guangzhou-based blogger’s report which was then scrubbed from the internet by censors.
The correspondence states: “A Guangzhou-based blogger had written about a January order given by the Director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the staff in January to not discuss Covid-19.
“The post has since been blocked on social media.”
The cables were marked “SBU” – which mean sensitive but unclassified.
The messages also reveal how there was an “uptick” in the blocking of WeChat groups, Weibo posts, and other websites in the early days of the outbreak as Chinese authorities sought to censor chatter around the virus.
Labs in Wuhan have been at the centre of a storm ever since Covid first emerged just a stone’s throw from the WIV which was known to be studying very similar bat viruses.
Shocking biosecurity lapses spanning over 40 years have led some to question the official Chinese line that the disease was passed from animals to humans – and the theory that the pandemic emerged from a lab in Wuhan is gaining momentum.
It’s crucial to ourselves, our children and grandchildren that we figure this puzzle out
Gary Ruskin, executive director of USRTK, told The Sun Online: “There is extensive evidence of gag orders and suppression of evidence in China regarding the origins of Covid-19.
“This is just one more small piece of evidence on top of that giant heap.
“I’ve worked on public interest investigations for nearly 30 years. In my experience, when an entity acts like this, it’s a glaring sign that they are hiding something serious.
“Otherwise, why endure all the trouble and shame of denying, hiding, obscuring, burying evidence?
Wuhan lab director Professor Wang YanyiCredit: Wuhan institute of virology
Professor Wang’s alleged email to scientistsCredit: TERMINUS
He went on: “It’s crucial to ourselves, our children and grandchildren that we figure this puzzle out. It will be a mark of shame for all of us if we can’t figure out how to come together to do this.”
Ruskin called for a “three-track” investigation into the origins of the pandemic – which shouldn’t just focus on China.
“First, an international investigation within China to search for physical evidence of zoonotic and/or lab origin, hopefully with the full cooperation of the Chinese government,” he said.
“This must include a full and unfettered search of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan CDC. Second, western intelligence agencies have to put their data together to see what can be made of all of it all.
“Third, the US Congress should establish an independent commission to investigate.
“There also has to be an investigation of the role of the Americans and the French in partnering and funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan has been at the centre of a lab leak stormCredit: AFP
Covid is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019Credit: EPA
WIV director Professor Wang specialised in research on SARS before the pandemic, and previously studied how viruses can attack the lungs and cause respiratory diseases.
She was appointed the head of WIV in 2018 after starting working there in 2012, and is also a leading member of one of the few “legally recognised” political parties in China aside from the Communis Party – called Zhi Gong.
The scientist gave a rare interview last summer when US channel NBC visited WIV – one of the few Western news outlets to do so.
“It is unfortunate that we have been targeted as a scapegoat for the origin of the virus,” she said.
“Any person would inevitably feel very angry or misunderstood being subject to unwarranted or malicious accusations while carrying out research and related work in the fight against the virus.”
And in an interview with China’s state-run TV channel CGTN, she dismissed allegations as a “pure fabrication”.
“In fact, like everyone else, we didn’t even know the virus existed. How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?,” she said.
What do we know about the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
THE Wuhan Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the pandemic.
Various theories have been reported about the lab, which is headed up by scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.
The lab specialises in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.
Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the facility – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).
BSL-4 labs are the only areas in the world where scientists are permitted to study diseases that have no cure.
Scientists from the lab even tested a mysterious virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.
It has been suggested this fatal bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.
Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid ‘super-virus’ that can infect humans in 2015, according to journal Nature Medicine
The study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.
There is no suggestion the facility’s 2015 work is linked to the pandemic and the facility denies the lab leak claims.
The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.
Earlier this month, USRTK also revealed how the WIV repeatedly blocked access to the US diplomats who requested a visit.
On at least two occasions, the lab rebuffed overtures from the US Consul General for a visit just months before diplomats raised the alarm over safety at the virus lab.
The state department cables include one from December 2017 in which the US Consulate approached WIV for an “informal meeting over coffee” so they could arrange an official visit by the Consul General.
However, just 24 hours before the meeting was due to go ahead, WIV abruptly cancelled the visit, citing an “official meeting”.
And in March, emails uncovered by USRTK found that Wuhan lab scientists attempted to get the coronavirus renamed so the deadly bug could be distanced from China.
The WIV rebuffed overtures from the US Consul General for a visit on two occasionsCredit: AFP
The messages obtained by USRTK show that the scientists argued the name of the virus was a “matter of importance to the Chinese people” as it became a political football.
Dr Shi – known as “Bat Woman” – and the other Chinese researchers argued the name was “truly misleading” as they felt it linked the virus to 2003 outbreak of SARS in China.
Chinese scientists also raised fears that the virus might become known as the “Wuhan coronavirus” or “Wuhan pneumonia” as they battled to save face.
Covid is believed to have originated in the Chinese city in December 2019 – with its true origins still shrouded in mystery despite a probe by the World Health Organisation.
The revelations comes amid increasing scrutiny on WIV as allegations of a lab leak are being increasingly taken seriously by governments, including the US and UK.
China still denies everything – and has accused the West of playing politics while trying to shift the blame.
Meanwhile, it emerged the Dr Shi was splicing viruses together as early as 2007 – with a paper she worked on revealing experiments combining bat-based coronaviruses with part of HIV to make them more infectious.