Wuhan Scientists Genetically Manipulated Coronavirus, Congressional Report Says

Investigators say virus likely leaked from Chinese lab during 2019 summer

The Wuhan Institute / Getty Images
August 2, 2021

Chinese scientists manipulated lethal viruses under unsafe conditions at the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the coronavirus outbreak, fueling suspicions the pandemic was caused by a lab leak, according to a new congressional report.

The Wuhan lab was engaged in "dangerous genetic modification research on coronaviruses at unsafe biosafety levels," according to the report, authored by the minority staff on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The report includes revelations about unsafe working conditions at the lab, as well as new information indicating the Chinese government sought to mislead the world about the experiments taking place there. Congressional investigators say researchers at the lab "had the ability to genetically modify coronaviruses as early as 2016 without leaving any trace of that modification."

Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus that is still crippling the world "was accidentally released from a Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory sometime prior to September 12, 2019," according to the report. "It is incumbent upon the United States and likeminded countries around the world to ensure accountability and implement the reforms necessary to prevent the CCP's malfeasance from giving rise to a third pandemic during the 21st century."

The information unearthed by congressional Republicans led by Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), the House Foreign Affairs Committee's ranking member, is likely to increase pressure on the U.S. government to sanction China and hold it accountable for the coronavirus outbreak. McCaul and his colleagues are recommending the Biden administration also demand a full-scale overhaul of the World Health Organization, which they say aided China in its coverup.

Congressional investigators say Wuhan researchers sounded alarms on the safety of lab environments in China in medical journals well before the virus emerged. A significant number of lab projects also underwent high levels of maintenance and repairs, including on projects related to laboratory animals and hazardous waste. In 2016, French defense officials voiced concern that labs in Wuhan would be used by China for military purposes.

Early in 2020—well after the first indications of the virus's spread—Beijing dispatched People's Liberation Army brass specializing in biological weapons to manage the lab, indicating a military-grade coverup of the virus.

"It's time to completely dismiss the wet market as the source of the outbreak," McCaul said in a statement. "A preponderance of the evidence proves that all roads lead to the [Wuhan lab]."

It is now clear that Chinese researchers were performing gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab, a process by which viruses are made more powerful in order to research potential cures, according to McCaul.

"It is our belief the virus leaked sometime in late August or early September 2019," McCaul said. "When they realized what happened, Chinese Communist Party officials and scientists at the [Wuhan lab] began frantically covering up the leak, including taking their virus database offline in the middle of the night and requesting more than $1 million for additional security."

The report also singles out Peter Daszak, president of the U.S. taxpayer-funded medical organization EcoHealth Alliance, as a chief source of misinformation about the virus's origins. Daszak's organization worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology on gain-of-function research, but the scientist later spearheaded efforts to suppress suspicions of a lab leak through letters drafted by scientists and public interviews. Daszak was also the only American scientist on the World Health Organization-China Joint Mission team tasked with investigating the virus and its outbreak in early 2021.

Information released in public contradicts Daszak's account of the virus's origins. In July, for instance, the Washington Free Beacon reported that three of the scientists who appeared on the first set of letters denying the lab leak theory dropped their names from another document released that month, revealing a weakening scientific consensus that the coronavirus came from natural sources.

The committee report also reveals that lawmakers requested Daszak provide answers on his conflicting accounts about the virus's origins, but he declined repeatedly. The report suggests subpoenaing the scientist to force him to testify before Congress.

"Peter Daszak is the public face of a CCP disinformation campaign designed to suppress public discussion about a potential lab leak," the report says. "Given the previously detailed inconsistencies and CCP disinformation campaign regarding a possible lab leak, Peter Daszak must be subpoenaed to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee as material witnesses to this investigation."

Published under: Coronavirus