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And Beijing can only dispel the persistent rumours by granting independent experts access to its facilities, Tobias Ellwood, a member of Parliament’s Chinese Research Group (CRG) has said. Mr Ellwood was speaking after the publication on Tuesday of a US State Department report which claims Beijing is conducting clandestine biological weapons-related research, and has failed to disclose similar work in the past.
Officials in Westminster, Washington and Brussels do not give the theory coronavirus was leaked from a lab any credence despite claims.
The MP for Bournemouth East said the findings of the report were particularly typical in the current circumstances, with uncertainty about how, where or even when the coronavirus which has since swept across the globe came from.
US President Donald Trump is among those who have suggested the disease may have escaped from a laboratory – and while Mr Ellwood acknowledged there was no firm evidence to prove him right, there was none to fit him wrong either.
Mr Ellwood said: “The character of conflict is changing rapidly and the power to disrupt through molecules is extremely powerful.
“It goes without saying that we don’t know because we can’t get into Wuhan to understand this.
“But let’s say this was a clandestine operation at the biological centre in Wuhan which went wrong.”
Mr Ellwood compared China’s secretive behaviour in relation to the pandemic to an incident in Russia in which anthrax being manfactured in a lab leaked into the general population, resulting in the deaths of 100 citizens.
He explained: “Immediately the Soviet machine jumped into play including Yeltsin who was the local political operative there and they put out a story that it was a bad batch of meat from the local butcher.
“It was not until the Cold War ended that they came clean and to say ‘we were making anthrax, the stuff got out and killed 100 people’.”
The “clandestine” way in which China operated, and its tendency to suppress news, inevitably raised suspicions, he said.
He added: “We don’t know but this is is why stories tend to linger about whether China was deliberately trying to manufacture some sort of bio-weapon and a mistake was made which leaked it into the local population.
“I put this into questions: I say there are people that point to a bio-weapon programme in Wuhan.
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The way China can clear this up and remove any suggestion that this miht be true is to allow independent organisations access and the ability to conduct a full investigation
“The way China can clear this up and remove any suggestion that this might be true is to allow independent organisations access and the ability to conduct a full investigation.
“Only then will we know the truth.
“We still don’t know who Patient Zero is, the very first person to that was, nor we know what ground zero was.
“These are the questions we have been denied and until they are answered, the suggestions that a facility such as the Wuhan biological laboratories were involved will persist.”
The unclassified State Department report offers new details about US concerns “for many years” related to Beijing’s biological weapons research which is not permitted under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention signed by 183 nations, including China itself.
The report concludes: “The United States has compliance concerns with respect to Chinese military medical institutions’ toxin research and development because of the potential dual-use applications and their potential as a biological threat.
“In addition, the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether China eliminated its assessed biological warfare (BW) program, as required under Article II of the Convention.”
China has strenuously denied the claims and the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said it regards the coronavirus as a natural phenomenon.
The UK also does not officially give credence to the theory.
Speaking last month, Wang Yanyi, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN Mr Trump’s claims were “pure fabrication”.
She added: “Our institute first received the clinical sample of the unknown pneumonia on December 30 last year. We didn’t have any knowledge before that, nor had we ever encountered, researched or kept the virus.
“In fact, like everyone else, we didn’t even know the virus existed. How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?”
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