China's People Will Tell the World the Truth About COVID-19 | Opinion

Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the World Health Organization's (WHO) last mission to Wuhan, is now saying that COVID-19 could have been caused by a lab accident.

"A lab employee infected in the field while collecting samples in a bat cave—such a scenario belongs both as a lab-leak hypothesis and as our first hypothesis of direct infection from bat to human," he told Danish state-owned television station TV2 in a documentary that aired last Thursday. "We've seen that hypothesis as a likely hypothesis."

Now he tells us. Embarek sang a very different tune in an interview with Science in February. More important, his mission's final report listed a lab leak as "an extremely unlikely pathway" and as the least probable scenario, even less likely than transmission by frozen food.

How did the report come to this startling conclusion? As Embarek explained in the Danish documentary, a Chinese colleague would allow a mention of the possibility of a lab leak "on the condition we didn't recommend any specific studies to further that hypothesis."

Embarek has done himself no credit by explaining the politics behind the drafting of the WHO report, clearly revealing that it was a heavily negotiated document and that China wielded an effective veto. The report, by Embarek's admission, did not state what mission members believed to be true.

He and other mission members had an obligation to state their findings—not to propagate what their Chinese interlocutors wanted them to report.

Fortunately, we do not have to rely on Embarek or the WHO. There are the Chinese people, who have already taken great risks to tell us what they have observed and what they believe.

There was, for instance, the Wuhan Eight: Li Wenliang and seven other doctors in that city who were detained beginning late December 2019 for spreading rumors, specifically, "issuing false information on the internet regarding the seven SARS cases at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market." Li, an ophthalmologist, contracted the disease, apparently treating patients, and died in February of last year.

Especially fearless was Chen Qiushi and other "citizen journalists" who traveled to Wuhan and reported on the disease in its first days. Chen was taken into indefinite custody in early February 2020 by authorities, and others were also disappeared. Chen's gripping videos, made from a bare room, were some of the first reports to the Chinese people—and the world.

Chinese officials, eager to counter the charge that they were slow to warn, bragged that they quickly shared the underlying coronavirus genome with the public. In fact, they sat on their findings. The Wuhan Institute of Virology identified the new coronavirus and mapped its genetic sequence by January 2 of last year.

 Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he
Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he attends the art performance celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China on June 28, 2021 in Beijing, China. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Professor Zhang Yongzhen's team at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, defying orders from higher-ups, posted the world's first genome sequence on two public platforms on January 11. The day after the posting, the Shanghai Health Commission shuttered Zhang's lab for "rectification." No reason was given for the action. The Level 3 facility had passed its annual inspection on January 5.

And then there is Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a virologist. While working at a WHO reference lab at the University of Hong Kong, she countered, at great personal risk, what she thought was a cover-up by the Chinese regime and the WHO. On January 19 of last year, Yan provided YouTube's LUDE Media channel with information showing there was human-to-human transmission of COVID-19, that there were no wild animal intermediate hosts and that the Wuhan seafood market was not the origin of the outbreak. She also noted that the virus could cause a global pandemic and mutate quickly.

After threats on her life, Yan left her husband and fled Hong Kong for the United States, where she has continued coronavirus research and warned the American public that China's biological research labs are connected to the Chinese military. She also has been making the case that SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19, was engineered in a lab.

Yan's contentions—especially regarding the circumstances relating to release of the disease—are controversial, but no one can deny that she epitomizes bravery and self-sacrifice.

Her work has had an impact. It looks like her warnings prompted Beijing to become far more forthcoming. China's first public admission of human-to-human transmissibility came only a few hours after the posting of the LUDE Media video.

What happens next? On May 26, President Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community to report back in 90 days on the origins of COVID-19. He does not appear particularly interested in the topic, however. After all, he spent two hours on the phone with Chinese ruler Xi Jinping in February and did not raise the subject even once.

In fact, Biden ordered the intelligence community to look into the matter only after an uproar triggered by a CNN report that his State Department spiked a similar Trump-era investigation.

Do not expect the intelligence community later this month—90 days from May 26 brings us to August 24—to come to the conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 came from a lab. Leaks suggest its report will be inconclusive.

The Chinese state can convince Biden that the origin of the disease is not important. Beijing can even intimidate the Embareks of the world and the World Health Organization, but there are brave Chinese souls willing to risk everything to tell us what they know.

And because of them, everyone will eventually find out. Beijing cannot hide the greatest crime of this century for much longer.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter: @GordonGChang.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.