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China attacks WHO advisory member for highlighting alleged errors in COVID origins report

Andrew Kerr, DCNF

The Chinese Foreign Ministry attacked a World Health Organization advisory committee member by name for publishing an open letter Wednesday claiming the WHO’s COVID-19 origins report was riddled with factual errors.

The letter, co-organized by WHO advisory member Jamie Metzl and signed by 23 other scientists, highlighted 12 incorrect, disputed, contradictory and imprecise statements in the WHO’s joint report with China on the origins of the pandemic which downplayed the theory that COVID-19 could have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

“This reminds me of the previous so-called ‘open letter of scientists’ that came out on March 4. It was also drafted by Jamie Metzl, a former member of the White House National Security Council and signed by almost the same group of people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Thursday. “The purpose of these two so-called open letters, one issued right before the WHO joint study report was to be made public and the other shortly after the report was released, is obviously to mount pressure on the WHO and the joint mission.”

The open letter called for a new investigation into the origins of the pandemic that strips China and any other government of veto power over the scientists selected to probe the pandemic’s origins. The Chinese government had such veto powers over the WHO’s recently-concluded origins investigation.

The letter added that whistleblower protections need to be put in place to ensure Chinese scientists can “share relevant information without fear of retribution.”

Metzl said it was “truly unfortunate” that China chose to “obfuscate & deflect” from the criticisms he laid out in his open letter.

Zhao said the WHO’s joint investigation with China was tainted by political factors that came from the United States and other countries who are “bent on politicizing the origin-tracing issue in an attempt to disrupt China’s cooperation with WHO and discredit China.”

“By blatantly questioning the independence and research conclusions of real scientists, they will not only cripple international cooperation on origin tracing, but also undercut global anti-epidemic efforts,” Zhao said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that the WHO’s report “lacks crucial data, it lacks information, and it lacks access. It represents a picture that is partial and, in our view, incomplete.”

Price said those concerns were shared by countries around the world, pointing to a joint statement the U.S. government released with 13 other democracies the day the WHO’s origin report was released expressing “shared concerns” regarding China’s influence on the report.

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