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China dismisses FBI statement on COVID-19 laboratory leak theory

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BEIJING, March 1, (AP): For the second day in a row, China on Wednesday dismissed US suggestions that the COVID-19 pandemic may have been triggered by a virus that leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Responding to comments by FBI Director Christopher Wray, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said the involvement of the US intelligence community was evidence enough of the “politicization of origin tracing.”

File Photo: In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, photo, a medical worker in a protective suit walks by patients who diagnosed with the coronaviruses settle at a temporary hospital which transformed from an exhibition center in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. Ten more people were sickened with a new virus aboard one of two quarantined cruise ships with some 5,400 passengers and crew aboard, health officials in Japan said Thursday, as China reported 73 more deaths and announced that the first group of patients were expected to start taking a new antiviral drug. (Chinatopix via AP)

“By rehashing the lab-leak theory, the US will not succeed in discrediting China, and instead, it will only hurt its own credibility,” Mao said. “We urge the US to respect science and facts … stop turning origin tracing into something about politics and intelligence, and stop disrupting social solidarity and origins cooperation,” she said. In an interview with Fox News that aired Tuesday, Wray said, “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in (central China’s) Wuhan.”

“Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government- controlled lab,” Wray said. Referring to efforts to trace the origin of the coronavirus, he added, “I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”

On Tuesday, Mao pushed back at a report from the US Department of Energy that assessed with “low confidence” that the virus that was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 leaked from a nearby government laboratory. The report hasn’t been made public and officials in Washington stressed that US agencies are not in agreement on the origin of the virus.

Mao on Tuesday insisted that China has been “open and transparent” in the search for the virus’ origins and has “shared the most data and research results on virus tracing and made important contributions to global virus tracing research.” A World Health Organization expert group said last year that “key pieces of data” to explain how the pandemic began were still missing. The scientists cited avenues of research that were needed, including studies evaluating the role of wild animals and environmental studies in places where the virus might have first spread.