Details of more than 300 studies, including many investigating diseases that pass from animals to humans, were erased from the state-run National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) database. They were previously available online.
Those studies were carried out by the top-secret Wuhan Institute of Virology, the laboratory suspected of being the root source of COVID-19. They have been referred to by researchers as the most complete studies on animal-to-human transfer of coronaviruses, including COVID-19.
Included in the purge of the NSFC database were all references to studies done by Shi Zhengli, the Wuhan-based virologist dubbed as "Batwoman" in light of her trips to collect samples in bat caves.
Also disappearing are studies that are key to any investigation about the source of the virus – one is looking into the risk of cross-species infection from bats with Sars-like coronaviruses and the other is looking at human pathogens carried by bats.
Information-control is a primary option in the CCP playbook. In December 2019, as COVID-19 began to rear its ugly head, Wuhan lab altered its database of viral pathogens – the Wildlife-borne Viral Pathogen Database. The database included information on virus variants in other wild animals.
Experts believe changes were made to throw off investigators. Keywords such as "wildlife" or "wild animals" were deleted. The title was also changed from "Wildlife-borne Viral Pathogen Database" to "Bat And Rodent-borne Viral Pathogen Database." The term "wild animal" was replaced with "bat and rodent" or "bat and rat."
Other terms connecting the database with the outbreak were also deleted. "Emerging infectious diseases" and "cross-species infection" were used in the original version.
The purging of data has reignited fears that China is trying to sabotage the investigation into the origins of the virus. It comes on the heels of President Xi Jinping’s move to block World Health Organization (WHO) investigators from entering the country, which drew international condemnation.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said two members of the 10-person team were on their way to China when they were informed they would not be granted clearance to enter the country. One of the investigators has since returned home while the other is temporarily staying in a different country.
China has agreed to a WHO probe into the origins of the coronavirus in December last year following months of negotiation.
The Chinese government has since countered by publishing stories through state-owned media outlets. Some stories claim that the virus did not even originate from Wuhan.
The United Kingdom's former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, has called the latest incident just another example of a Chinese cover-up.
"China is clearly trying to hide the evidence," he said. "It is vital that there is a thorough investigation into what happened but China seems to be doing all it can to stop that from happening."
He added that the world will continue to assume that China has something to hide until the country opens itself up to an investigation.
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