Wuhan: we need an international investigation


An international disaster requires an international investigation. It’s a common sense assertion. Yet the Communist Party of China (CCP) does not seem to want to accept it.

To a request from the Australian government for an international investigation sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Chinese ambassador in Canberra replied no. Moreover, he outlined the threat of a Chinese boycott of Australia (including its universities and tourist resorts) if the Australian government pursued this idea.

Not much is known about the circumstances surrounding the birth in Wuhan in November 2019 of a new disease, covid-19, which was soon to become a pandemic. How was the transmission of certain animal coronaviruses to humans, after a slight mutation?

According to a study published at the end of March 2020 by the very serious scientific journal Nature, the virus currently infecting the entire planet, SARS-CoV-2, is thought to be the result of a fusion between a bat coronavirus and a pangolin coronavirus.

The bat-derived virus is very similar to the one circulating in humans (96% identical genome), with the notable exception of a segment of six amino acids. This small missing genetic fragment, which allows the virus to penetrate the human cell (where it multiplies), would have been provided by the pangolin virus.

Captured during a police operation against smuggling rings in China, pangolins were carriers of the virus, whose genome has been sequenced. One of them had strong similarities with SARS-Cov-2, at the level of the segment allowing penetration into the cell. But it is not known how, where and when a bat infected a pangolin and how the pangolin infected a human.

Is it legitimate for the great nations of the world to want to shed light on what really happened in China? Yes, of course it is, if only to prevent such a zoonotic pandemic from reoccurring from that great country.
On the other hand, there is a coincidence that is currently intriguing political circles in Washington.

At the end of 2019, when there were hundreds of “wet” markets throughout China, packed with cages of all kinds of live animals, isn’t it extraordinary that the disease appeared precisely in Wuhan? Indeed, it is the only city in China with a virology laboratory and an infectious diseases laboratory studying bat coronaviruses and their propensity to infect humans, already detected during the SARS epidemic that began in Foshan (Guangdong province) in November 2002.

It is not illegitimate to formulate the hypothesis of a laboratory accident, even if it is later invalidated. This type of accident happens even in American or European research laboratories. Even the pro-government Chinese daily Global Times, in an investigation published on 18 February, questioned possible slippages in experiments conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

There is no question here of entering into the conspiratorial schemes circulating on the web, which imagine the development of a secret biological weapon that has gone wrong. Nor is there any question of questioning the sacrifices made by the Chinese population to stop the spread of the disease in China.

No one seriously accuses China of malignancy in this matter. Then why does it refuse to be transparent? Why does it so vehemently reject an international investigation? Does she have something to hide?

After the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, the Japanese government did not hesitate for a second to call on experts from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna) to help it combat the contamination. Why wouldn’t China do the same? Wouldn’t it grow up to seize the opportunity to propose the constitution, within the WHO, of an international agency for the control of laboratories at risk of epidemics?

Would it not succeed in this way in lowering Sino-American tension, which will only make the whole world a loser?

In terms of technology, China has benefited greatly from the openness of Westerners, who have hailed its success in lifting hundreds of millions of peasants out of poverty through industry. In the last decade, its Silk Road has called for more and more openness from the West.

Today, it cannot brandish the concept of closure before them, after having exported to them a sanitary disaster without precedent for a century.

This article was first published in Le Figaro. 

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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