By Austin Lin & Jianli Yang

anuary 2022 marked the second anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China. The pandemic has engulfed the entire world and resulted in tremendous loss of life and enormous social and economic damages.

If any government has the most need to know the pandemic’s origin, it is the Chinese government ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s general secretary, Xi Jinping. After all, SARS-CoV-1 had its outbreak in China in 2003, 13 years before SARS-CoV-2 emerged in 2019. These diseases are exactly the kind of unpredictable and destabilizing risk factors that the CCP fears the most. In fact, Xi was most vulnerable politically just prior to the Wuhan lockdown as Xi had to explain that he was fully in control of the emerging crisis. Given this urgency, it is rather strange that just as the pandemic was spreading from Wuhan to the rest of the world around February 2020, the CCP issued a gag order on any publications concerning COVID-19’s origin—just one month after Xi deployed an army general to take charge of Wuhan labs. It has become clear now that Xi’s goal from very early on was never to be transparent about the origin but merely to set false narratives; one of the most brazen examples was the CCP media quoting a fake Swiss virologist. Meanwhile, a Chinese journalist is in jail for documenting the Wuhan lockdown. On the foreign relations front, Xi started a trade war with Australia after Canberra called for an independent investigation.

Judging by most media reports, the overwhelming impression is that the COVID-19 origin is nearly settled—a zoonotic jump at a Wuhan wet market that just needs more time to identify the animal host. However, this faulty assumption is purely based on precedence, not pandemic-specific evidence. This zoonotic narrative collapses completely upon close scrutiny; the real evidence for zoonosis stands at zero. The alternative lab leak hypothesis, a valid scientific deduction that also has plenty of precedence, has been tagged with toxic labels of conspiracy and racism. It is quite a case of cognitive dissonance that for a pandemic that has killed millions, the priority to determine the origin is not on a par with the likes of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, or even that of an airplane crash.

Lab leaks happen; it is a matter of well-documented fact. As recent as December 2021, Taiwan officially confirmed a SARS-COV-2 lab leak. A lab infection occurred in China in early 2020, but the CCP never officially reported the event. Therefore, it is just common sense to ask if labs in Wuhan leaked SARS-COV-2 by accident. No bioweapon, no intentional release, no anti-vaccine. No need to conflate an accidental leak with anything malicious. This invites the most perplexing question: Why did Western virologists and journalists label the leak hypothesis a “conspiracy”?

Labs in Wuhan, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and Wuhan CDC, house the world’s leading collection of novel coronavirusesmany unpublished. These labs have demonstrated gain-of-function (GOF) chimeric viruses that exhibit higher virulence. In 2018, WIV and its US partners proposed to add a “furin cleavage site” (FCS) to novel coronaviruses. FCS is a critical protein that enables SARS-COV-2 to become a pandemic virus. Oddly, FCS is a feature unique to SARS-COV-2 in the entire SARS-related beta coronaviruses class that stands out like a “sore thumb.” David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate, said, “Other beta coronaviruses don’t have that site [FCS] … a reasonable hypothesis that somebody had put it in there … must be taken seriously.” Furthering the intrigue, Wuhan scientists requested for biosafety help two years prior to the pandemic.

In fact, at the very beginning, brave Chinese scientists and journalists had pointed to a lab leak possibility prior to the CCP gag order. Before February 2020, Western virologists expressed a similar suspicion privately amongst themselves, stating more than 50 percent probability that it was leaked; among those were Drs. Kristian Andersen, Robert Garry, and Edward Holmes. Garry wrote, “I really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario… I just can’t figure out how this [FCS] gets accomplished in nature… in the lab it would be easy.” When contacted, he explained that his earlier emails were taken “out of context.”

However, after a NIH conference call on February 1, 2020, experts’ opinion and tone drastically changed. Merely three days later, on February 4, Andersen called the leak possibility a crackpot theory. By March, Andersen, Garry, Holmes published in Nature Medicine that “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.” Around the same time, Peter Dazsak of EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), a US-funded non-profit that partners with WIV in novel virus sampling and GOF experiments, gathered 27 scientists as coauthors in a Lancet letter, stating, “We… condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” Dazsak didn’t disclose his conflict-of-interest for more than 15 months, nor admitted WIV keeps live bats, nor willingly shared SARS-COV-2 relevant data, nor readily complied with FOIA requests.

What exactly was discussed, or what new data was presented in the February 1, 2020, meeting that resulted in a dramatic U-turn of opinions? When NIH faced FOIA requests, the meeting notes came back 100 percent redacted—a complete blackout. Transparency is the bedrock of science, but it somehow doesn’t apply to the question of COVID-19’s origin?

In more FOIA emails obtained in January 2022, a clear directive emerged that came from the highest leadership at NIH—Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins (retired December 2021). Fauci wrote to Garry, “If you write it, don’t mention a lab origin as that will just add fuel to the conspiracists.” Collins, replied to Jeremy Farrar, head of the UK-based Wellcome Trust, “Swift convening of experts… or the voice of conspiracy will quickly dominate, doing great potential harm to science and international harmony.” Instead of investigating COVID-19’s origin based on objectivity, the paramount concern suddenly shifted to the politics of “international harmony.”

Farrar contacted the World Health Organization (WHO) and wrote to Collins and Fauci on February 5, 2020, “[Put] pressure on this group from your and our team next week.” That WHO group was set up to look into origins of SARS-Cov-2. Dazsak later joined the WHO team that went to Wuhan for the stage-managed COVID-19 origin tour, which CCP officials shepherded 24/7. Dazsak agreed to the CCP narrative that frozen food chains are a more likely cause than a lab leak in the official document.

Why is “harmony” more important than objectivity for NIH? Just who is causing great harm to science by labeling a leak, a valid scientific hypothesis, a conspiracy? Even with limited FOIA emails thus far, let’s not mince words: the actions of NIH leadership and this small circle of virologists fit the very definition of a conspiracy. What if they are abusing the labels of “science,” “conspiracy,” and “racism” to shield themselves from deeper scrutiny? As far back as 2011, Collins and Fauci specifically penned an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “a flu virus risk worth taking” in support of GOF research. In 2017, NIH issued new guidance to work around the US government’s GOF funding ban.

While the Biden administration has ordered an intelligence review into the origin question, the process has stalled. Is this due to a lack of evidence, or a lack of political will to subpoena for evidence? Is it because a great share of US government funding to Dazsak comes from the Department of Defense? No need to naively await cooperation from Xi; there are plenty of evidence stored at American servers at the NIH and EHA that will provide sufficient clues. Congress isn’t willing to use subpoena power because Democrats are not willing to give Republicans a political win, just as Republicans are not cooperating with the January 6 investigation. Ultimately, the American people lose as both parties are infected by their own ideological virus—that they dare not admit the objective facts. There are many institutional emperors in the US that wear no clothes. The only winner is the emperor-wannabe Xi, and his form of authoritarianism. The real loser is the truth.

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Ignorance or anti-truth about how this terrible crisis began, let alone why it should come about, will continue to leave human beings panicking in unnecessary fear and worry, where we cannot be free. But unfortunately, we are living in the world where everything is politicized—any tragic accident would turn political. God, who blesses the meek and the pure in heart (Matthew 5: 3-10), is affronted. We will be allowed to inherit the earth only if we turn from arrogant to meek. And if we want to understand the truth about how, why, and what concerning the catastrophe, we must purify our hearts from the pollution of the virulent COVID-19 politics.

This article first appeared in Providence Magazine on 02/21/2022