China Is Censoring Research on COVID-19 Origins, Deleted Page on Wuhan University Website Suggests

The Chinese government appears to be censoring research on the origins of the COVID-19 epidemic by requiring scientists to run their studies by the Ministry of Science and Technology, a since-deleted page on a university website shows.

According to a cached version of that page from the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan that Newsweek reviewed, requirements were updated so that scientists would need to have their study approved by China's Ministry of Science and Technology before publication:

"1. Academic papers on the traceability of the new coronavirus must be reviewed by the academic committee of the school before publication, focusing on the authenticity of the paper and whether it is suitable for publication. After the review is passed, the school reports to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which can only be published after the review by the Ministry of Science and Technology."

Newsweek has reached out to a spokesperson for China's embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment, but they had not responded as of the time of publication.

Coronavirus in China
A woman wearing a face mask walks in front of a drawing of Chinese President Xi Jinping on a wall at the Leishenshan Hospital that had offered beds for coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China on April 11 NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty

The Guardian first reported this on Saturday.

China has faced repeated internal and external accusations of censorship surrounding research into COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Local Chinese officials in Wuhan also are known to have suppressed information about the initial outbreak, even detaining whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang. Wenliang later died from COVID-19, and Chinese authorities offered a "solemn apology" to the medical practitioner's family for how he had been treated.

Back in February, The New York Times shared videos of Chinese citizens warning that research into coronavirus was being censored and removed from the internet.

"My purpose is to make sure that all this information is not lost or deleted," one of the unidentified Chinese nationals said with her face covered in the clip.

"We don't know what information and when the authorities will censor," another unidentified person said. "So we are trying to be faster than the authorities."

U.S. government officials, and other international leaders, have criticized China for not being transparent about the coronavirus pandemic. Toronto-based cyber research group Citizen Lab reported in early March that Chinese social media had begun censoring keywords associated with the coronavirus as well as criticism of the government's response to the crisis, according to Reuters.

The precise origin of the coronavirus has not been fully established. But the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, which quickly became the original epicenter of a global pandemic. As of Sunday morning, there were nearly 1.79 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, more than 109,000 have died while over 411,000 have recovered. The U.S. became the new epicenter for the virus in March, and now has by far the highest number of confirmed cases, with more than 530,000 reported.

Updated 11:10 AM ET