Extracts from Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s Regular Press Conference
Bloomberg: The WHO Director-General called on China to cooperate in the second phase of studying the origins of the coronavirus. My question is, does China plan to cooperate and allow people into China for the second phase?
Zhao Lijian: China has taken note of the the draft proposed by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus and the WHO Secretariat for origins study, which are being studied by experts on the Chinese side.
China’s position on the issue of global origin-tracing is consistent and clear. Origins study is a scientific issue. All parties should respect the opinions of scientists and scientific conclusions, instead of politicizing the issue. The plan for the next phase of global origins study should be led by member states and agreed upon through consultation. In March this year, WHO released the report on the joint WHO-China study, which reached important conclusions including that lab leak is extremely unlikely, that we need to continue to search for possible early cases globally and further understand the role of cold chains and frozen foods in the transmission of the virus. This is a scientific and authoritative report, which laid the basis for the next stage of global origin-tracing work.
CCTV: On July 15, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there. “We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate,” he said, adding that it is premature to rule out a lab leak as the origin and more study is needed. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The fact is, China showed raw data that requires special attention item by item when the joint mission was conducting the origins study in China. Foreign experts said on multiple occasions that the expert group has access to large amounts of data and information and fully understands that some data cannot be copied or taken abroad as it concerns personal privacy.
During the study, the joint mission made field trips to institutions including the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and visited biosafety laboratories and had in-depth, candid and science-oriented exchanges with experts there. Through these field trips and in-depth visits, members of the mission unanimously agreed that the hypothesis of lab leaking is extremely unlikely.
The above-mentioned points are fully and unequivocally captured in the WHO report of the joint study released in March this year.
On the issue of origins study, all should respect science and the opinion and conclusion of scientists with an objective and unbiased attitude. On July 15, 48 countries sent letters to the WHO Director-General on the issue of origins study. They welcome the publication of the report of the WHO-convened global study of origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part, support the effort to conduct the origins study around the world and oppose politicization of origins tracing. This reflects the strong appeal from the international community.