One year after the city was put on lockdown, Wuhan is still at the center of controversies surrounding truth and coronavirus. After months of delay, a WHO team arrived in Wuhan in January 2021 to begin the scientific investigation into the virus’ origins. Some Chinese officials have promoted theories that coronavirus did not originate in Wuhan, even alleging that it may have originated in an American military base. In an interview with CNN, China’s Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, suggested that the virus might have originated outside of China and asked rhetorically whether the WHO’s investigative team would “be allowed to come [to the United States] to do the same thing?” In a Twitter post, Cheng Yizhong, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the Southern Metropolis News and Beijing News, shared his thoughts on Chinese authorities response to the WHO’s investigation:
Deliberate Denials of COVID-19’s Place of Origin are Base and Uncivilized
Painstaking repudiation of the virus’ place of origin is rooted in the same perspective as vilification of that origin: both assume that the place of origin is guilty. Since experts from the WHO unanimously agree that COVID’s origin is in the natural world and not the laboratory, then not only is the virus’ origin inherently guiltless and deserving of special sympathy, but theories about its guilt are also unfounded. It is merely the first victim. To deliberately deny the virus’ origin is not only base and uncivilized, but is also equal to slandering the place where the virus appeared.
But of course, regarding the place of origin, there are those who must bear responsibility for concealing the virus and oppressing whistleblowers; not only did they fail to undertake prevention and control measures, but to the contrary, they organized large festive activities [the infamous Baibuting mass banquet], conjuring a spectacle of tranquility. They missed a golden opportunity to contain transmission and stop the virus where it began. The local government committed such immense offenses because policymakers lack experience and a sense of responsibility, but even more so because of a deep structural and systematic issue whereby officials are inclined to report the good and hide the bad.
And what a masterstroke of norm-breaking and crossing of bottom lines it was when officials meticulously obstructed the efforts of WHO experts to enter China and initiate an investigation, and by making the virus’ spread a domestic issue. The problem is, this masterstroke actually succeeded: it has taken a year for the WHO to organize and arrive at the place of origin for a sightseeing tour. As for the over 100 million confirmed cases and over two million deaths caused by this global health emergency, the inaction of the WHO is extraordinary and no small matter.
It must be stressed that ascertaining the truth of the virus’ origin is the only way to quickly and efficiently contain it. The painstaking efforts of the authorities to conceal the virus from the very beginning are already beyond redemption. To then assiduously deny the origin of the virus, and even to muddy the waters by spreading conspiracy theories, makes them doubly guilty. [Chinese]
Translation by Hamish.