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Remarks by Ambassador Chen Xiaodong at Press Briefing on COVID-19 Origin-Tracing
2021/08/30

Friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us for today's press briefing.

On August 27, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the so-called key takeaways of the Summary of Assessment on COVID-19 Origins. US President Joe Biden also issued a statement on this matter. The US spared no effort to hype up the so-called Wuhan lab leak, and slander that China withholds information, refuses to cooperate and obstructs international investigation.These US slanders have no grounds. The US side is blatantly telling lies. The Chinese side opposes and condemns such moves.

It is inherently anti-science for politicians and the intelligence community to trace the origins of viruses. The Summary has nothing new in pinning the blame on China. What the US has done is a witch-hunt that only looks for excuses in favor of their verdict that presumes China to be guilty. In doing so, the US holds science in contempt. They turn a blind eye the loss of lives. And they undermined global solidarity against the virus. COVID origin is a major issue of science that scientists around the world, including China and South Africa, are studying very hard. Today I would like to share with you all three aspects of observations on the science of origin-tracing with all the facts and the evidence.

First, the so-called Wuhan lab leak theory is full of loopholes. It is a complete fabrication. The P4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is a China-France government project. It strictly follows international standards all the way from design, construction to management. There are strict protective facilities and measures, and the lab has been operating safely and stably since it opened in 2018. The local government in China got the first COVID report on December 27th of 2019. They got test samples of the first batch of COVID patients on the 30th. Before that, the WIV had never accessed, stored, or studied the virus whatsoever. The Institute has never designed or manufactured the virus, not to mention to leak it. It has never conducted any coronavirus gain-of-function research. Even up till now, not a single staff member of the WIV contracted the virus.

In March this year, a WHO team consisting of 34 experts from China and around the world did a 28-day study in Wuhan, and WHO officially released a joint WHO-China study on COVID-19 origins. The study concluded that a lab leak is extremely unlikely. This has become the general consensus of the international academic community. Also, since last year, many well-known experts have published articles in prestigious medical journals such as The Lancet to refute the conspiracy theory of a lab leak with solid evidence. Among them are many American experts such as NIH Director Francis Collins.

Many findings show that the virus had emerged in many places around the world long before the the virus hit and got reported in China. Earlier positive samples are still being identified. For example, in November 2019, multiple skin biopsies from an Italian woman revealed the virus in situ hybridization reactivity. Genetic material of the virus has also been detected in wastewater samples collected from a city in Brazil. From December 13th, 2019 to January 17th, 2020, nine states in the US reported a total of 106 archived samples of routine blood donations that tested positive for COVID antibodies.

Second, China is open, transparent on origin-tracing cooperation. We have nothing to hide. The Chinese side twice invited WHO in July last year and March this year respectively for origin-tracing in China and we fully supported WHO expert team's work. During the trips, the Chinese side made every effort to organize and coordinate among relevant departments to meet the requirements of WHO experts on their visit. A number of experts on the team said that they visited all the places they wanted to visit, and met with everyone they wanted to meet.

During the teams' visits to China, the Chinese side presented all the key raw data in great detail. This includes patient data from 174 early cases. The foreign experts also repeatedly made it clear that the team had access to a huge amount of data and information. They spoke highly of China's open, transparent and responsible attitude. They said that China's openness was unexpected and the results of the Wuhan visit exceeded expectations. The first phase of global COVID-19 origin-tracing cooperation between WHO and China and its research practice provides a model for similar cooperation in other countries around the world.

Third, the timeline of China's COVID-19 response proves that China has no reservations about sharing information with the world. According to international practice, it is customary for countries to have strict rules for the confirmation of infectious diseases. China's law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases has strict approval procedures and regulations for the reporting, verification, and release of infectious disease outbreaks. On December 27, 2019, Dr. Zhang Jixian, Director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrative Medicine, was the first to report three cases of unknown pneumonia. This is the first time a suspicious case was reported by a local department in China. On the same day, the Wuhan CDC conducted epidemiological investigation and testing of relevant patients. On December 30, the Wuhan Health Commission issued an urgent notice on reporting the treatment of the unknown pneumonia. On December 31, the Wuhan Health Commission issued a briefing on the current pneumonia outbreak in the city. On the same day, China notified the WHO Representative Office in China of information on pneumonia cases of unknown origin in Wuhan. Since January 3rd of 2020, China started to timely and actively share COVID information with WHO and countries including the US. From January 3rd to February 3rd, China shared with the US information about the outbreak and China's response measures 30 times.

China already completed the identification and genome-sequencing of the virus on January 7th, 2020, and already shared genome sequence of the virus with WHO and other countries on January 11th. On January 10th, the WIV and other institutions already developed COVID detection kits and started developing COVID vaccines and medicine. What I want to say as a reminder today is that from January 3rd, 2020, when China notified the US of COVID to March 13th, when the US declared a national emergency, a simple process like this took the US 70 days. I guess all of us are very clear about what the US has done during the 70 days.

Friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some US politicians are obsessed with stigmatizing the virus by associating it with certain countries and places. These moves do nothing but politicize COVID origin-tracing. These politicians also attempt to pressure WHO into conducting a so-called Phase II investigation into China. In the name of origin-tracing that should have been based on science, the US attempts to plant evidence to incriminate China. Whatever the US side says or does on origin-tracing has turned into nothing but a farce and a terrible scandal for the international community.

First, the US engages in political manipulation with ill intentions. Does the US really care about origin-tracing? From the very start till now, US government leadership cares nothing about where the virus originated. What they want from all of this is to use origin-tracing to smear and attack China, and to increase bargaining power with China. Their evil intentions could not be more obvious. If the US really cares about origin-tracing, they should stop blaming others, focus on controlling the virus at home, and invite WHO to carry out investigations into the Fort Detrick base and the University of North Carolina.

The US side is using origin-tracing to practice hegemony. They gather allies to launch public opinion warfare and made a lot of noise about how there's a Wuhan lab leak and how China should pay for it. When the US paid back the fees it owed to WHO, they made it as if it's a way of forcing WHO on a second investigation into China. The US is attempting to appear that they set the rules in origin-tracing. All these fully expose how the US is not tracing origins of the virus but manipulating the situation. What they have done disrespects science, exacerbates the spread of COVID as well as the political virus, which is more dangerous.

Second, the US ignores science and fixates on the presumption of guilt. Does the US know that origin-tracing takes a long time? Many US scientists have took part in the tracing the origins of Spanish flu, Ebola and AIDS. Some of these cases still have not been solved even today, after more than a decade or even decades of tough research. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government has put political calculations, bullying and arrogance above science. They blatantly demand that the intelligence community produce a report in just 90 days. The fact that intelligence agencies and politicians, rather than experts, are making investigations is in itself anti-science. It fully demonstrates that the US side never intended to reach a scientific conclusion. They have already predetermined the outcome, just so they can pin the blame on China.

In fact, the world knows all too well about the terrible track record of US intelligence community. For example, they once used a small tube of washing powder as so-called evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. They are behind the so-called White Helmets to produce fake videos of so-called chemical weapons attacks in Syria. During a speech at Texas A&M University in 2019, former US Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo said, "We lied, we cheated, we stole. We have entire training courses... It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." Again, the US intelligence community have a terrible history of poor performance. The so-called origin tracing report they fabricated is by no means credible.

Third, the US keeps on shifting blames to others without any bottom-line morality. Does the US really care about COVID-19 response? President Biden spoke in his statement about "taking every necessary precaution to prevent it from happening again". Ironically, with the most advanced medical equipment and strongest capabilities in the world, the US has seen 38 million confirmed COVID cases, and nearly 630,000 American lives have been lost to the virus. US number of newly confirmed cases daily still ranks the highest in the world. With only 4 percent of the world population, the US accounts for a staggering 18 percent of global positive cases. The US President also said he would "continue to work with like-minded partners". In reality, the US and its allies have often blamed and created troubles for each other in their COVID responses. The US also used ridiculous tricks to intercept its allies' response supplies and hoarded staggering amounts of vaccines.

Smearing China will not clear the name for the US. In order to divert the world from blaming the US for its terrible response, the US has constantly put out bizarre arguments as "holding China accountable", "China needs to pay for it" and "the lab leak in China". In essence, they do all this only to cover up their own failed response. They plant evidence against China so as to serve their own selfish interests. Graham Allison, a well-known American scholar, said bluntly that during COVID, American politicians targeted China for nothing else but to avoid being held accountable for the failures in their own response.

Fourth, the US willingly and knowingly chooses to turn a blind eye to the call for justice. Has the US ever heard the universal call of the international community for science and justice? More than 80 countries have supported the joint WHO-China study and opposed politicizing this issue by writing to the WHO Director-General, making statements or sending diplomatic notes. More than 300 political parties, social organizations and think tanks from more than 100 countries and regions have submitted a joint statement to the WHO Secretariat. They support WHO in moving forward origin-tracing study in a scientific, objective and impartial manner. Professor Salim Karim, the leading South African epidemiologist and former chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID, argued that the international community needs to approach origin-tracing in a scientifically rigorous way rather than political posturing and finger-pointing. Several WHO sources and researchers disclosed that whenever they expressed support for the joint WHO-China study, they were pressured from the US side. President Peter Daszak of the Eco-Health Alliance and Australian Virologist Danielle Anderson are no exception. As the world's largest developed country, the US should have worked hard for global health security cooperation. On the contrary, the US has wantonly undermined global cooperation against COVID-19, disrupted origin-tracing, and ignored calls for justice. This has not only cost the American people dearly, but also seriously damaged global cooperation against COVID and posed an unprecedented threat to global health security.

Friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

China's position on origin-tracing is consistent and clear. We approach it with an open, transparent, scientific and cooperative attitude.

First, origin-tracing is about science. No country has the right to disregard life, politicize scientific issues, and smear other countries for political interests.

Second, China has always supported and will continue to participate in science-based origin-tracing.

What we oppose is origin-tracing that is politicized, that goes against WHA resolutions, and that disrespects the joint China-WHO study.

Third, the joint WHO-China study must be respected and implemented by all parties, including WHO and its member states.

Global origin-tracing work should and can only be carried out on the basis of this study and not anything else.

Friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like all countries in the world, China is a victim of COVID-19 and we all hope to identify the source of this virus as soon as possible and stop its spread as early as possible. It is important for the international community to join hands to fight against not only COVID, but also the political viruses. We need to jointly oppose the self-serving actions of the US through political manipulation, presumption of guilt and blame-shifting. We advise the US side that there is no way out for political origin-tracing, and that it is essential for them to immediately return to the right path of science-based origin-tracing response cooperation. That is the expectation of the international community and also in the interest of the American people. Otherwise, they will only bring disgrace for themselves, dishonor themselves and end up harming their own interests and those of others.

I thank you all.

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