Secrets, lies and thuggery are the hallmark of the Chinese Communist regime. And in the mystery of the devastating Wuhan virus, all three are combined.
The strongest evidence of a crime is a cover-up. And the Chinese authorities have provided that.
They have fought ferociously to prevent an international inquiry into the pandemic’s origins.
Their repeated obstruction of the World Health Organisation’s fact-finding missions has provoked even that notoriously supine body to protest.
Even now, WHO investigators are being prevented from accessing the vitally important laboratory in Wuhan that is likely to be at the heart of America’s allegations.
Pictured: Virologists work in the P4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China
Researchers work in a lab of Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, Hubei province, China
Experts have been questioning the Chinese authorities’ account of events for a year. Now, it appears, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to make a direct accusation.
Was it really pure chance the virus first attacked the human race in the only city in China with a research lab specialising in manipulating the world’s most dangerous viruses?
That would be as odd as a new disease emerging in the surroundings of Britain’s top-secret biological defence research establishment of Porton Down in Wiltshire.
To this day, scientists who support the theory that the virus is a mutation that emerged from Wuhan’s ‘wet market’ have not been able to find a convincing candidate for the animal in which this mutation actually occurred.
The official explanation is the new virus was 96 per cent identical to a bat virus, RaTG13, found in Yunnan province in southern China.
But as Chinese professor Botao Xiao pointed out in a paper in February, no such bats are sold at the city’s markets. And the caves where they live are hundreds of miles away.
Pictured: A woman walks past a shop on a street selling deep-fried scales of endangered pangolins, or scaly anteaters, in Hong Kong despite being the subject of an international ban
That paper disappeared from the internet. Mr Xiao — perhaps mindful of the fate that awaits those in China who promote inconvenient truths — disavowed it.
Many scientists privately assumed an engineered virus released via a laboratory accident was at least as likely as the idea of a series of stunningly unfortunate chance mutations.
After all, Shi Zhengli, the Chinese scientist nicknamed ‘Bat Woman’ was a regular visitor to those caves.
When news of the outbreak broke, she initially feared that a leak from her research institute was to blame.
That thought alone should have prompted a full-scale and searching inquiry. Instead, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a diktat: ‘Any paper that traces the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed.’
But even the Chinese regime cannot hold back the truth forever. Over the past twelve months independent research, official leaks and news reports have strengthened the lab-leak hypothesis.
Investigation: Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was ‘vital’ the WHO team probe the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China (pictured) as the possible origin of the Covid pandemic
In February a Taiwanese professor, Fang Chi-tai, highlighted a curious feature of the virus’s genetic code, which would make it more effective in attacking targeted cells.
This was unlikely to be the result of a natural mutation, he suggested. Much scientific research involves modifying viruses to understand how they function.
Many observers have worried for years that the risks of such experiments are not properly thought through.
Lab safety procedures are riddled with potential loopholes and flaws: breakages, animal bites, faulty equipment or simple mis-labelling can all lead to a deadly pathogen reaching its first human victim. If so, such carelessness has now cost tens of millions of lives.
Yet we should be clear. The Chinese authorities are ruthless. But even they would not unleash a global plague.
Only in the fevered imagination of conspiracy theorists is Beijing deliberately waging biological warfare on the West.
Paradoxically, such speculation — promoted by among others President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon — may have hampered the search for the truth, by making the lab-release theory seem racist and politically toxic.
In February, in Britain’s politically correct medical journal, the Lancet, scientists published an open letter denouncing ‘conspiracy theories and rumours’, urging solidarity with Chinese colleagues.
Yet it was just those colleagues who were bearing the brunt of the regime’s frantic attempts to censor the truth about the outbreak.
The Chinese regime prizes self-preservation above all — certainly over the truth, or the health of its own people, let alone the lives of foreigners.