As U.S. Investigates Wuhan Lab Leak Theory, Senior China Researcher Says Allegations Are 'Malicious, Impossible'

As United States intelligence agencies continue their investigation into the source of the COVID-19 spread, the vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology spoke out Saturday to defend the Chinese government and his laboratory from allegations that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan.

Yuan Zhiming, who is also the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Wuhan Branch, broke the lab's silence after Trump administration sources last week said China and the World Health Organization (WHO) were being investigated for a potential coronavirus cover-up. China's foreign ministry on Thursday told reporters the WHO found "no evidence" the outbreak started at the Wuhan laboratory, and Yuan blasted allegations of intentional misuse or creation as "malicious" and "impossible."

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday that American intelligence indicates the coronavirus most likely spread naturally versus it being manufactured in the Chinese laboratory, which has ties to foreign government money including the U.S. and France. The Chinese government has done little to provide confidence in the veracity of its publicly revealed coronavirus case and death statistics, particularly after reports they silenced doctors, falsely blamed the U.S. military and botched their initial 2019 response.

Hoping to dismiss similar allegations, Yuan appeared on a Chinese state television network and said that U.S. politicians and "conspiracy theories" are mistakenly "connecting the dots," because the Institute of Virology and the P4 laboratory, one of Asia's most advanced, are both in the city of Wuhan.

"The director of the Galveston National Laboratory in the United States made it clear that our laboratory is just as well managed as labs in Europe and the U.S.," Yuan said. "I think it is understandable for people to make that association. But it is a malicious move to purposefully mislead the people" to think that the virus escaped from [our Wuhan] labs.

"They have no evidence or logic to support their accusations. They are basing it completely on their own speculations," Yuan added.

As the Washington Post had reported, diplomatic cables from 2018 revealed U.S. embassy officials were concerned that poor safety procedures at China's Wuhan lab--which was testing coronavirus strains in bats--could potentially lead to outbreaks in the future. The Associated Press reported that more than 3,000 people were infected with COVID-19 during the crucial six days between when authorities knew about the outbreak and their official announcement, based on internal records obtained by the news wire.

During the White House's Coronavirus Task Force press briefing Saturday, Trump reiterated that he believes the Chinese government has been skewing their coronavirus data and stats since the start of the outbreak. "We're not number one, China's number one. China's ahead of us by a lot, they are way ahead of us in terms of death. It's not even close - you know it, I know it, they know it. But you don't want to report it."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, recently said at a news conference at the Pentagon: "It should be no surprise to you that we've taken a keen interest in that, and we've had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. And I would just say, at this point, it's inconclusive. Although the weight of evidence seems to indicate 'natural.' But we don't know for certain."

Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the U.S. is trying to determine whether the coronavirus emanated from the Wuhan lab before spreading throughout China in December 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Beijing "needs to come clean" on the coronavirus source. A U.S. intelligence community official who spoke to Newsweek Friday said the U.S. government agencies have "not collectively agreed on any one theory" about COVID-19's origin.

Fox News quoted several anonymous sources last week within the Trump administration who said patient zero is thought to have worked at the Wuhan lab and contracted the virus from a bat. The report cited one U.S. source who said cooperation between the WHO and the communist Chinese government may be "the costliest government of all time" -- something their foreign ministry denied flatly Thursday.

Trump announced this week he is considering halting U.S. funding to the WHO as an investigation into wrongdoing proceeds, before accusing the international organization of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the coronavirus origin. Yuan said Saturday that the Wuhan lab -- or humans as a whole -- don't have the capability "or have the know-how to create such a virus." The Wuhan lab vice director said he is hopeful that scientists around the globe can work with Chinese researchers to find the pathogen's true trajectory.

"I have been in managing laboratory biosafety and scientific research projects for years, I know it is impossible," Yuan continued. "But I also believe that so long as the pandemic continues, this kind of speculations and disharmony will not fade away. Scientists around the world are joining forces to publish in academic journals. I hope these conspiracy theories will not harm the cooperation of scientists and affect their fight against the pandemic."

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As United States intelligence agencies continue their investigation into the source of the COVID-19 spread, the vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology came forth Saturday to defend the Chinese government and his laboratory from allegations the coronavirus originated in Wuhan. HECTOR RETAMAL, JOHANNES EISELE / AFP/Getty Images