BEIJING ( Associated Press) — China on Friday criticized the hypothesis that the COVID-19 pandemic could have originated in a leak from a Chinese laboratory, calling it a politically motivated lie, after the World Health Organization recommended the way vigorous investigation of the matter.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rejected accusations that China had not fully cooperated with investigators, saying the country accepted any investigation based on science, but rejected any political manipulation.
He also reiterated his calls to investigate “highly suspicious laboratories, such as Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina” in the United States, where China has insinuated, without evidence, that the United States was developing the coronavirus as a weapon.
“The lab leak theory is a lie cooked up by anti-China forces for political purposes, with nothing to do with science,” Zhao told reporters. “We always support and participate in the global tracing of the virus on a scientific basis, but we firmly oppose any form of political manipulation,” he said, reiterating China’s explanation for delaying or rejecting further research on the origins of the virus.
Zhao further said that China has made great contributions to tracing the virus, sharing the most data and study results.
That “fully reflects China’s open, transparent and responsible attitude, as well as its support for the work of the WHO and the advisory group,” he said.
The WHO’s position in a report published Thursday marks a drastic change from the UN agency’s initial assessment of the origins of the pandemic. Many critics accused the WHO of being quick to dismiss or downplay the lab leak theory, which put Chinese authorities on the defensive.
After a tightly controlled visit to China last year, the WHO concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that the coronavirus had spread to humans after a leak from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan. Many scientists suspect that the coronavirus passed from bats to people, possibly via another animal.
But in its report on Thursday, a group of WHO experts said “crucial data” was still missing to explain how the pandemic began. The scientists said the group will remain “ready to consider any and all scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow for a detailed examination of all reasonable hypotheses.”