Wuhan Lab Helped Chinese Army in Secret Project to Find Animal Viruses P4 laboratory (C) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 17, 2020. (Hector Retama/AFP via Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Sunday, 25 April 2021 09:02 AM
Despite its repeated denials, revelations are coming out the Chinese government has been working on a secret military project for 9 years to find and research animal viruses, according to documents obtained by the U.K.'s Daily Mail on Sunday.
The Trump administration had long speculated the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been conducting military research amid the global coronavirus pandemic that is believed to have begun in November 2019 in Wuhan.
"The Chinese have made it clear they see biotechnology as a big part of the future of hybrid warfare," State Department weapons expert David Asher told the Mail. "The big question is whether their work in these fields is offensive or defensive."
The documents show research called "the discovery of animal-delivered pathogens carried by wild animals" detected the "dark matter" of biology in spreading disease, including 143 new diseases discovered in the first 3 years of the project, according to the report.
The de facto "Bat Woman" at the WIV lab, Shi Zhengli made trips to find samples in caves and helped lead a team of 5 that include Cao Wuchin, a senior Chinese army officer and government bioterrorism adviser, the Mail reported.
"I don't know of any military work at the WIV," Col. Cao said last month, denying U.S. government allegations of military research at the WIV. "That info is incorrect."
But documents obtained by the Mail show Cao as a Academy of Military Medical Sciences of the People's Liberation Army, director of the Military Biosafety Expert Committee and sits on the Wuhan Institute of Virology's advisory board.
The epidemiologist studied at Cambridge University and was the No. 2 in China in the COVID-19 response and vaccine development.
"Many have been working with Western research institutes for years to steal our know-hows, but China still refuses to share critical information a year after the pandemic has killed over 3 million," Lianchao Han, a dissident who defected from the Chinese government, told the Mail.
The U.S. State Department has long alleged intelligence showing gain of function research at the lab and COVID-19 spreading among WIV researchers weeks before it spread in the city of Wuhan.
The World Health Organization under China's watchful eye issued a China-approved report that called the U.S. allegations of a WIV leak as "extremely unlikely."
"They are still not being transparent with us," King's College London biosecurity expert Filippa Lentzos told the Mail, calling the latest report as fitting "the pattern of inconsistencies" from the Chinese government. "We have no hard data on the pandemic origins, whether it was a natural spill-over from animals or some kind of accidental research-related leak, yet we're unable to get straight answers and that simply does not inspire confidence."
The Mail report noted three miners died of a strange respiratory disease caught while clearing bat feces and a database of samples from the WIV were mysterious taken offline in September 2019.