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Lab-leak virus story a political ploy

By Imran Khalid | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-04-19 07:21

Song Chen/China Daily

The lab-leak theory surrounding the origins of the novel coronavirus has reignited a dangerous political game, fueled by certain US lawmakers looking to scapegoat China. The scientific community and the weight of evidence on the issue, which should be the driving force behind any genuine inquiry, have been neglected in the charade played out under the aegis of the US.

Once again, we are witnessing the exploitation of a global public health crisis to further geopolitical agendas, while the search for truth and accountability takes a back seat. It is imperative that we prioritize scientific inquiry and avoid playing into the hands of those who would use the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool of manipulation and blame-shifting.

On March 8, the US House of Representatives convened a hearing to delve into the origins of the novel coronavirus in the wake of a classified intelligence report from the US Department of Energy. While the report indicated that a lab leak was likely responsible for the pandemic, it should be noted that this conclusion was reached with only "low confidence".

Despite this caveat, the hearing amplified already heated rhetoric and troubling questions about the politicization of science. The danger in such proceedings is that they often prioritize sensationalism over objective analysis, further muddying the waters and undermining the search for truth. While conducting the research to dissect the complexities of this pandemic, it is essential that the US political leadership resist the urge to indulge in partisan theatrics and instead prioritize a measured and evidence-based approach.

The lab-leak theory, bolstered by a US Energy Department report with only "low confidence", has been hyped up for political gain, despite scientific evidence pointing in a different direction. Certain parties have been using political motivation to exploit this tragedy for their own purposes, ignoring the scientific consensus and potentially impeding efforts to address the root causes of the pandemic.

It is necessary that we focus on the facts and avoid succumbing to the allure of partisan posturing. Only through an objective and unbiased approach can we hope to uncover the truth and take effective action against this global health threat.

The emergence of the novel coronavirus caught global medical organizations off-guard in 2020. The virus has caused nearly 7 million deaths worldwide and disrupted trade and travel. Unfortunately, former US president Donald Trump was one of the first top global leaders to politicize the issue by labeling it the "China virus", fueling racial tensions during the pandemic.

Incumbent US President Joe Biden has tried to avoid such divisions. Also, if one sees below the surface, the World Health Organization, whose inspection team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has said it is highly unlikely that the novel coronavirus was leaked from the lab.

Chinese scientists shared comprehensive data and information during the joint origin-tracing mission, including details on more than 76,000 possible and suspected COVID-19 infections that occurred in Wuhan in 2020. China displayed a high level of transparency and cooperation to ensure the global community has a clear understanding of the issue.

The recent findings of the US Energy Department contradict the conclusions of four other US intelligence agencies, which said the pandemic began through natural transmission from an infected animal.

Two other agencies have yet to reach a definitive conclusion. According to a study by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA is yet to determine whether the virus leaked from a lab or emerged due to natural transmission. But the report did offer a consensus view that the virus was not part of China's biological weapons program, despite the speculation and conspiracy theories.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, too, acknowledged that there are a "variety of views" within US intelligence agencies on the issue. "Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other, and a number have said they just don't have enough information to be sure," Sullivan said in a recent talk with the US media.

Despite accusing China of promoting conspiracy theories, US officials and media outlets themselves have been the main purveyors of such propaganda. The Russian revelations that US-funded biological labs in Ukraine were conducting experiments with bat coronavirus samples raise questions about the US' own activities and demand an explanation.

Those who continue to push the theory of a lab-leak should also investigate places like Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina with the same level of scrutiny and impartiality. According to media reports, UNC labs have witnessed many accidents due to their insufficient safety protocols. This calls for fairness and justice to ensure that all potential sources of the virus are thoroughly examined, rather than focusing on scapegoats for political gain.

There are many unanswered questions about the US' bio-labs located around the world. It is not known whether these labs, including Fort Detrick, comply with the Biological Weapons Convention, and to what extent they pose a potential threat to human safety.

The US has been opposing the establishment of a verification mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention and has refused to allow verification of its biological facilities for the past 20 years. The US is the only country that still has chemical weapons and has delayed their destruction twice. In the relentless pursuit of partisan gain, the United States is engaged in a campaign to sow confusion and discord, casting doubts upon the crucial scientific investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus.

As the US continues to contradict itself, the rest of the world grows increasingly skeptical of its claims and actions. Each new inconsistency or flip-flop serves only to erode the US' credibility and diminishes its ability to lead on the global stage. With every self-contradiction, the US offers the world yet another reason to doubt its intentions and question its motives.

The author is an international affairs commentator and freelancer based in Karachi, Pakistan. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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