The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the country’s largest scientific research institute and a regime-controlled entity, nominated two researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) for an award celebrating “outstanding science and technology achievement,” the state-run Global Times newspaper reported Sunday.
The WIV has been the subject of intense international scrutiny for nearly two years as evidence has mounted it may have played a role in the start of the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic. The scientists nominated for the CAS award — Shi Zhengli and Yuan Zhiming — were known to have been studying contagious coronavirus strains shortly before the outbreak of Chinese coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, the origin location of the outbreak. Shi had already developed a reputation for being one of the world’s most knowledgeable coronavirus researchers, nicknamed “Bat Woman” for her extensive work on coronavirus strains originating in that animal.
In 2020, the U.S. State Department published a “fact sheet” stating Washington had reason to believe several individuals working at the WIV had been hospitalized with an unknown respiratory illness. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) launched an investigation into the origin of the virus in Wuhan this year that found no evidence of any animal reservoir of the virus in the city.
The Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly insisted the laboratory played no role in the pandemic. Initially, Chinese officials claimed the origin of the virus was “the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan seafood market,” but in mid-2020, spokespeople for the Chinese Foreign Ministry began to insist, without evidence, that the virus originated in the United States. Spokesman Zhao Lijian has been particularly vocal in accusing the Fort Detrick, Maryland, U.S. Army laboratory of unleashing the virus on the world, despite the lack of evidence linking any early coronavirus cases to Maryland or the United States at all.
The Global Times reported that the WIV is one of several institutions on a list of nominees for the CAS “2021 Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement Prize.”
“The award is mainly given to individuals or research groups who have made or demonstrated significant achievements in the past five years. CAS awards 10 such individuals and research groups annually,” the propaganda outlet detailed.
“CAS said the WIV quickly carried out pathogen identification after the outbreak of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus], completed the entire virus genome sequencing and virus isolation within a short time,” it continued, “confirmed that the COVID-19 virus shares the same functional receptor as the SARS virus, systematically analyzed the basic biological characteristics of the virus, and revealed that coronavirus carried by bats may be the evolutionary ancestor of the COVID-19 coronavirus.”
The CAS also recognized the WIV’s alleged achievements in developing coronavirus tests, the Global Times added. The newspaper concluded its announcement by accusing Western scientists and others questioning the potential ties between the laboratory and the pandemic of “slander” and noting that the Chinese Foreign Ministry is openly calling for the WIV to win a Nobel Prize in medicine.
“If those that first publish high-quality viral genomes were to be accused of making the virus, then professor Luc Montagnier, who first discovered Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) would be considered the culprit of AIDS rather than awarded the Nobel Prize,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao told reporters during his regular press briefing on Thursday, “and Mr. Louis Pasteur, who discovered microbes, would be held accountable for the disease-causing bacteria all around the globe.”
“By analogy, the team in Wuhan should be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research on COVID-19, instead of being criticized,” Zhao concluded, again urging an international investigation into the U.S. military while citing no evidence linking it to the outbreak of the disease.
American officials have for months suggested that the WIV may have significant ties to the outbreak of Chinese coronavirus in the city.
Wuhan is “not a natural environment where you would expect a bat coronavirus to be found,” former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Feith, who worked on investigations into the virus during his tenure there, said in an interview this month. “It’s an urban environment about a thousand miles away from where the bats that are known to contain the closest known viruses to the COVID-19 virus are found.”
Feith said the WIV was “conducting research in the months and years leading up to the outbreak, including on the closest known natural virus to the COVID-19 virus. And they had not been transparent over the years about what they had been doing and we wanted to call for greater transparency.”
In January 2021, the State Department revealed in a public fact sheet that Washington “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both [Chinese coronavirus] and seasonal illnesses.” Leaked Chinese regime documents indicate the first confirmed cases of Chinese coronavirus infecting humans anywhere in the world were diagnosed in Wuhan on November 17, 2019.
Chinese scientists referred to the intelligence on the WIV as a “complete lie.”
The theory did not gain much momentum in the scientific community, however, until after the W.H.O. published its report on the origin of the virus in March. Researchers from the United Nations agency visited Wuhan under extremely limited conditions, their research overseen by Chinese Communist Party officials, and the resulting 120-page report concluded that a viral leak at the WIV was “highly unlikely.” Yet scientists tested 80,000 animal samples in Hubei, the province where Wuhan is located, and could not find a single animal testing positive for Chinese coronavirus. In the event of the virus infecting humans from an animal reservoir, ample positive tests in native animal communities should theoretically exist.
The report concluded that the likeliest infection scenario was that the original animal reservoir infected a third animal, which in turn caused the first human infections.