Where did the lab leak theory come from? Who first promoted the idea and why? The answer to this question is surprising – and may be the key to unlocking the mystery of the origin of COVID-19.
The first known mention of the idea that the coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese lab appeared on January 9th 2020 in a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA). This was just days after the virus had first entered public consciousness, and at the time, no deaths had yet been reported and few people were worrying about the virus – including, it seems, the Chinese, who were claiming it wasn’t even clear whether it was spreading between humans.
Seemingly unhappy about the lack of alarm, RFA ran a comment from Ren Ruihong, former head of the medical assistance department at the Chinese Red Cross, who said she was confident it was spreading between humans. She also asserted it was a “new type of mutant coronavirus”, and immediately, without pausing for breath, raised the possibility it was a result of a Chinese biological attack on Hong Kong using a virus developed in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Bear in mind this was before a single person had been reported as dying from the virus, and no solid evidence was presented for the claim. It is the first time the WIV and the idea of a lab origin of the virus are mentioned in the media. The report then implies the WIV is hiding its involvement – though the basis for this insinuation is tenuous, to say the least.
Ren said. “They haven’t made public the genetic sequence, because it is highly contagious. From what I can tell, the patients caught it from other people. I have thought that all along.”
She said the lack of fatalities didn’t indicate that the virus was less deadly than SARS, just that antiviral medications have improved in the past 10 years or so.
Ren said she also regarded the relatively high number of infections in Hong Kong with suspicion, given that there had been no reports of cases anywhere in between the two cities, in the southern province of Guangdong, for example.
“Genetic engineering technology has gotten to such a point now, and Wuhan is home to a viral research center that is under the aegis of the China Academy of Sciences, which is the highest level of research facility in China,” she said.
Repeated calls to various numbers listed for the Wuhan Institute of Virology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences rang unanswered.
However, an employee who identified herself as a senior engineer said she knew nothing about the virus.
“Sorry, I… I don’t know about this,” the employee said.
Over the following two weeks RFA pushed hard on the idea of a Chinese biowarfare lab origin, and its reporting was picked up by the Washington Times on January 24th, which quoted Dany Shoham, an “Israeli biological warfare expert”.