China resurfaces false COVID-19 origin theory linked to Fort Detrick

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin ripped the Biden administration for enlisting the intelligence community to further investigate the Wuhan lab leak theory. His remarks echoed a baseless claim pushed for months in Chinese media and government. Officials have argued without evidence that the outbreak was somehow linked to Fort Detrick.

“If the U.S. really attaches importance to transparency, then when can it invite WHO experts to visit Fort Detrick?” the spokesman said at a press briefing posted on Twitter. “China has invited WHO experts in for two rounds of origin-tracing study and the WHO experts have also visited biosafety labs including the [Wuhan Institute of Virology].”

Wang referenced Fort Detrick just days after another Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Zhao Lijian, made similar remarks, stating the military base was “full of suspicion.” The military base houses portions of the U.S. biological defense program. Chinese officials have pushed false claims that COVID-19 originated in the U.S. as far back as March 2020, in an apparent effort to deflect international pressure over Beijing’s handling of the pandemic.

Wang likened calls among U.S. lawmakers to investigate the Wuhan lab to claims in the early 2000s that Iraq was housing weapons of mass destruction, which later proved to be inaccurate.

Representatives for the White House and the State Department did not return requests for comment.

In the early days of the pandemic, former President Donald Trump and top members of his administration argued COVID-19 may have originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But calls to further investigate the claim, once seen as a conspiracy theory, have intensified since the Wall Street Journal reported three researchers at the Wuhan lab developed symptoms severe enough to seek hospital treatment in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Last month, President Biden said he had directed the U.S. intelligence community to investigate potential COVID-19 origin theories and report back within 90 days. The president said intelligence officials were divided on whether the pandemic began through human contact with infected animals or because of a lab accident.

U.S. officials have also expressed doubt about the findings of a joint report conducted by China and the World Health Organization, which concluded in March that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.”

“Although Chinese and foreign experts and the WHO have given their authoritative and science-based views, some U.S. politicians and media are still vigorous hyping up the narrative that the virus leaked from the WIV and pushing for investigations into it,” Wang said.

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