Chinese Virologist Who Claims Covid Made in Lab Says She'll Spread Message 'Before They Kill Me'

A Chinese virologist who attracted global attention after spreading a conspiracy theory that China was responsible for creating and releasing SARS-CoV-2 has suggested this week she could be killed as a result of her disclosures.

Li-Meng Yan, a former post-doctoral fellow at Hong Kong University, said in an interview with Spanish TV channel Telecinco Thursday that Chinese authorities have spread false rumors in an attempt to ruin her reputation after she refused to remain silent.

"What I am going to do is spread the message as much as possible and show the facts so that people can verify them before they kill me. Everyone has to know the truth and they are not going to scare me," she told television host Iker Jiménez.

Yan reiterated the claim her initial concerns about the origins of the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19—which she maintains was made in a lab before intentionally being released by China—were previously silenced by her superiors.

"[One superior] insisted... I shouldn't cross the red line, if I did it would get me in trouble and they would make me disappear," Yan said, noting that she had been investigating the Wuhan outbreak back in 2019. "They wanted me to keep my mouth shut."

Yan's controversial claims about the infectious virus, which emerged via two non-peer reviewed papers, have been firmly rejected by the wider scientific community but still found an audience among social media users and fringe conspiracy websites.

Her research is affiliated with the Rule of Law Society, a nonprofit organization founded by Steve Bannon, the former adviser to President Donald Trump who is currently facing unrelated fraud charges. It claims to refute the accepted "natural origin theory."

Virology experts maintain the evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 was likely to have first transmitted to humans from an animal source, potentially bats or pangolins.

The first paper, released September 14, asserted without evidence that a natural origin theory lacked support and instead proposed SARS-CoV-2 was lab-made, claiming that it showed "biological characteristics... inconsistent with a natural zoonotic virus."

A second paper, published October 8, went further by accusing the scientific community of "corruption" and defining SARS-CoV-2 as a "bioweapon." The paper was branded a "shitshow of disinformation" by Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen.

Andrew Preston, Reader in Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Bath, previously said Yan's first paper could not be given "any credibility" in its current form.

"The interpretations made are not supported by data, are unsubstantiated and the interpretations are largely stated but not explained," Preston said after reviewing the paper. "The report does not appear to start with an open hypothesis about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. The language of the report is reminiscent of a conspiracy theory."

Hong Kong University said back in July that Yan no longer worked there and had "never conducted research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus."

Yan remains active on Twitter despite her initial account being suspended by the social media platform in September, and has now amassed over 46,000 followers. Yesterday, she posted a video purporting to show an attempted hacking attempt on the profile.

Speaking on Steve Bannon's War Room podcast yesterday, Yan suggested that she had been targeted by the cyberattack for speaking out against China. "Because I fight back, I had a hacking attack. [They] tried to steal this account. Anyway now it's still alive. And I'm still alive. I am not scared of the Chinese Communist Party," she said.

Li-Meng Yan
Li-Meng Yan, a former post-doctoral fellow at Hong Kong University, appeared on Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast on October 22. Screenshot/Steve Bannon's War Room/YouTube