China, which pledged full cooperation with the World Health Organization’s efforts to discover the origins of the coronavirus, is denying entry to the WHO team charged with looking into the matter.
The 10-person WHO team of experts was supposed to be on the ground in China soon after the new year. But, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China.” Or maybe it’s that they haven’t finished scrubbing their records.
The mission was due to be led by Peter Ben Embarek, WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross the species barrier, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July.
Two members of the international team had already set out on their journey to China. One has now turned back and the other is in transit in a third country, emergencies chief Mike Ryan said.
However, he added: “We trust and hope that is just a logistic and bureaucratic issue that can be resolved very quickly.”
Not even a Communist bureaucracy works this slowly.
Ahead of the trip, Beijing has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying “more and more studies” showed that it emerged in multiple regions. Ryan has previously called this “highly speculative”.
China has dismissed criticism of its handling of early cases that emerged in late 2019, although some including U.S. President Donald Trump have questioned Beijing’s actions during the outbreak.
Washington, which has announced plans to leave the WHO, has called for a “transparent” investigation and criticised its terms under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.
China is claiming complete innocence of any effort to delay or impede the investigation.
In a press briefing Wednesday, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, said China had “always held an open, transparent and responsible attitude” on tracing the origin of the virus.
Hua said that China had previously welcomed WHO experts into the country and said that the UN investigation team and Chinese experts have “maintained frequent interactions” including four video meetings between October and December.
“In order to ensure that the international expert group that comes to China can work smoothly, it is needed to fulfill the necessary procedures and make relevant specific arrangements. The two sides are still negotiating about this,” said Hua. Spoken like a true Communist bureaucratic flunkie.
China doesn’t want anyone looking into the origins of the coronavirus. I’m not even sure the WHO is thrilled with the idea. China would simply prefer that the world accept the official propaganda explanation and go back to buying trillions of dollars in Chinese products. They don’t care if discovering the origin of the virus could prevent another pandemic or teach us anything about coronaviruses. They just want the issue to go away.
The WHO is probably not the best body to conduct an “independent investigation” into the origins of the virus, but at the moment, it’s all the world has to work with. China’s attitude makes it more than likely that they will talk a lot about cooperation with the investigation, but because they will have plenty of spies at the WHO giving them updates about the team’s progress, if someone starts getting close to an uncomfortable truth, they will shut it down.