“These signatories can deceive no one,” said Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.
Lijian also called out one of the group’s organizers, former National Security Council official Jamie Metzel, by name.
“It’s really unfortunate that rather than addressing the very serious concerns raised in our open letter, the Chinese foreign ministry has decided to attack our group of experts who are only raising basic questions about the origins of COVID-19 and to attack me personally,” Metzel told Fox News.
Metzel and the scientists urged changes at the World Health Organization to allow for a full, independent investigation into the origins of the virus. If not, they said countries should initiate an investigation separate from the WHO.
“Critical records and biological samples that could provide essential insights into pandemic origins remain inaccessible,” wrote the scientists in their open letter. “The best remaining alternative would be for governments seeking a full and credible examination into the origins of the pandemic to come together to develop a new and independent process, with China’s cooperation if possible but without it if not.”
Fox News asked State Department spokesperson Ned Price whether the administration supports an outside investigation. Price said the United States wanted reforms at the WHO and is urging the organization to immediately start the next phase of its investigation.
“We believe the WHO has great potential. It has great value,” said Price. “There is supposed to be a second phase of this study and we encourage this phase to commence without further delay.”
Last week, the WHO released a report from a joint international and Chinese government investigation. It found the virus had likely jumped from bats to another animal and then to humans. It also claimed the theory that it had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was unlikely.
“No solid justification is provided for why a ‘lab-related accident’ … should be considered ‘extremely unlikely,’” according to the scientists’ letter. “It is at best unclear whether the Chinese joint study team members had the leeway to express their fair evaluation of all hypotheses in the presence of Chinese government minders.”
Even WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the lab hypothesis needed more study.
It also unclear whether the US government and its allies can successfully change the WHO and secure sincere cooperation from China’s government.
“The first instinct of the Chinese government is not openness and transparency. It’s cover up,” said Metzel. “One year after this terrible pandemic began, there is no process in place for comprehensively examining the origins of the pandemic that should frighten everyone.”