The coronavirus is entirely natural. And there’s no reason to think otherwise. Apart from how much the outbreak benefited China. And how relentless it is in silencing reporters, medical professionals, and… bat researchers.
Deep in the lush mountain valleys of southern China lies the entrance to a mine shaft that once harbored bats with the closest known relative of the COVID-19 virus.
The area is of intense scientific interest because it may hold clues to the origins of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide. Yet for scientists and journalists, it has become a black hole of no information because of political sensitivity and secrecy.
A bat research team visiting recently managed to take samples but had them confiscated, two people familiar with the matter said. Specialists in coronaviruses have been ordered not to speak to the press. And a team of Associated Press journalists was tailed by plainclothes police in multiple cars who blocked access to roads and sites in late November.
Sensitivity and secrecy is how you spell ‘conspiratorial police state engaging in a crude coverup’.
If there’s nothing to hide in those caves, why confiscate the samples?
As the virus continued spreading rapidly into February, Chinese scientists published a burst of research papers on COVID-19. Then a paper by two Chinese scientists proposed without concrete evidence that the virus could have leaked from a Wuhan laboratory near the market. It was later taken down, but it raised the need for image control.
Internal documents show that the state soon began requiring all coronavirus studies in China to be approved by high-level government officials — a policy that critics say paralyzed research efforts.
A China CDC lab notice on Feb. 24 put in new approval processes for publication under “important instructions” from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Other notices ordered CDC staff not to share any data, specimens or other information related to the coronavirus with outside institutions or individuals.
The order said communication and publication of research had to be orchestrated like “a game of chess” under instructions from Xi, and propaganda and public opinion teams were to “guide publication.” It went on to warn that those who publish without permission, “causing serious adverse social impact, shall be held accountable.”
A game of chess indeed. And the behavior of a regime with nothing to hide.
Security agents tailed the AP team in three locations across Yunnan, and stopped journalists from visiting the cave where researchers in 2017 identified the species of bats responsible for SARS. At an entrance to a second location, a massive cave teeming with tourists taking selfies, authorities shut the gate on the AP.
Not a thing to hide.