China hit back on Thursday at President Joe Biden’s call to redouble efforts to determine the origin of the coronavirus, dismissing a “conspiracy” theory that it may have leaked from a laboratory in its Wuhan city.
Chinese officials accused the US of politicizing the pandemic, saying international experts have “repeatedly praised China’s open and transparent stance on the origins of Covid-19”.
“Some people in the US completely ignore facts and science,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Thursday.
Biden said Wednesday he asked intelligence officials to investigate the origins of the coronavirus after new reports raised questions about whether it had spread from a laboratory in Wuhan.
The intelligence services have been unable to draw a “final conclusion” about the origin of the virus, he said in a statement, and there is a conflict over whether it was human contact with an infected animal or a laboratory accident.
“The extremely impossible statement of China’s ‘laboratory leak theory’ was clearly documented in the WHO joint investigation report,” Zhao said Thursday.
He was referring to a joint information tour between China and China World health organization Scientists who took place in China in January found it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus leaked from a Wuhan laboratory.
Still, US intelligence agencies told NBC News in February that they had not ruled out that a laboratory accident had caused the virus to leak. A source familiar with the matter said this week that a U.S. intelligence report identified three researchers in the Wuhan lab who sought hospital treatment after an illness in November 2019.
China’s ruling Communist Party has been criticized by some world leaders for failing to raise the international alarm about the outbreak quickly enough and reprimanding Wuhan doctors, including Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist who later died from the virus.
China’s response to Biden’s investigation statement comes after more than a year of debt trafficking between Washington and Beijing over whether China is responsible for the pandemic, which was first discovered in Wuhan in late 2019.
While the Biden administration has not used the same racist rhetoric as former President Donald Trump, its White House has put pressure on China to be more transparent about what it knew and when.
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Despite the exchange, it is important that political leaders in all countries get to the bottom of the virus’s origins, said virologist Dr. Cheryl Walter from the University of Hull, England.
“We have to do everything in our power, and possibly that includes a political level, to prevent another pandemic like this from occurring,” she said. “Transparency from countries, including government and research laboratories in those countries, is so important.”
“The world needs answers,” she added.
In a statement late Wednesday not naming Biden, as is the custom for Chinese officials who avoid attacking the president directly, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., also during “smear” campaigns and “debt shifts” in heated language, which were recently heard in the exchange between Chinese officials and Trump.
The embassy also dismissed the Wuhan laboratory leak theory as a “conspiracy” and called for a “comprehensive investigation of all early cases of Covid-19 found worldwide”.
While the virus was first identified in China, imposing strict lockdowns, the country has emerged from the pandemic with relatively few officially recorded deaths – just below that 5,000 people – and a healthy economy.
Beijing officials point out that the US has now registered nearly 600,000 deaths and has been accused of dangerously disorganized response to the crisis, particularly under Trump.
China’s heated language was echoed in the state media, which also pointed fingers at U.S. Biolabs in Asia and Fort Detrick in Maryland – repeating theories unsupported by evidence.
“The US wants a presumption of guilt,” said an editorial in the state Global Times wrote Wednesday. The laboratory leak theory is “totally impracticable” and “a political insult to Chinese scientists”.
Biden has instructed officers to report any results within 90 days.