Senator Tom Cotton was roundly ridiculed and branded a conspiracy theorist for saying that the Wuhan coronavirus may have come from a lab. There was an immediate false equivalence that he was accusing China of releasing an engineered bioweapon. That was never what he said, so we lived through weeks of China’s preferred “bat soup” story that insisted the virus came from a wet market.
Then last week, something strange happened. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China to outlaw wet markets to protect global health. These types of markets where wild animals are kept in close proximity to one another and are slaughtered have been criticized since the slaughter of civets was blamed for the SARS outbreak in 2002.
Following Pompeo’s statement, there was a response in official Chinese media. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said there is no such market in China. While he said there were farmers markets in China where fresh vegetables, seafood, farm-raised meat, and live poultry were available, he insisted it was illegal to sell wild animals.
Yet the “official” story for both the SARS outbreak and the COVID-19 pandemic blames wild animals, specifically bats and civets, sold in open markets. In fact, the Chinese government sampled and shut down the Wuhan wet market a few hundred yards from one of the suspect laboratories on January 1, 2020.
Now, plenty of information has caused speculation that the novel coronavirus may have come from one of the government labs in Wuhan. A virologist known as the “Bat Lady” Shi Zhengli identified dozens of deadly SARS-like viruses in bat caves and also created chimeric viruses in the course of her research. Chimeric viruses are man-made, combining portions of different viruses together. To this point, scientists are saying the COVID-19 virus is a naturally occurring virus. However, it is important to note the Chinese government has never provided initial virus samples or other data to the rest of the world.
U.S. Intelligence is now investigating the murky origins of the virus and newly-released State Department cables demonstrate the safety at these labs has been an ongoing concern. But if the official Chinese statement is wet markets selling wild animals do not exist in China, have they inadvertently answered the question for us? It would be hard for China to continue the bat soup narrative if officials are insisting that the very concept of wet markets does not exist in their country.
Maybe they are realizing the original story will not hold up to scrutiny. Anger that they appear to have deliberately allowed travel out of Wuhan after closing it off to the rest of China is building. Their attempts at “mask diplomacy” with faulty equipment are also failing. When you are the epicenter of a global tragedy that appears to be more of a plan-demic than a pandemic, the truth will eventually come out. It is up to the leaders of the free world to ensure it does, through both economic and diplomatic pressure.
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