Lab leak theory is not crazy

I remember back in late 2019 and early 2020, when I first learned that a lethal virus was spreading in Wuhan, I felt that it was an extremely curious location, in the grand scheme of things, for a virus to originate.

You see, previous viral outbreaks in China were almost invariably linked to the wild animal trade: civet cats, pangolins, etc. Yet Wuhan has never been a place that I associate with this bush meat trade. I remember speaking with some colleagues at the time who had also done research in south China, and we all agreed that Wuhan was certainly not a city known for its wild animal trade.

Now, although I did not associate Wuhan with the bushmeat trade, anyone who is familiar with bat coronaviruses would have immediately associated the city with this field of research. Of the 59 BSL-4 laboratories located around the world, literally only three engage in this field of research.

Yes, you read that correctly: three!

The three BSL-4 labs that work on bat coronaviruses are the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, the UNC Chapel Hill BSL-4 lab in North Carolina, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

I did not know this at the time. So, back in early 2020, as COVID-19 spread around the world, I wrote an article on a local news site calling on the Chinese government to take steps to regulate the wildlife trade and to clean up markets where potential reservoirs of zoonotic illnesses are stored and slaughtered. This seemed, after all, the most likely explanation for this pandemic: a coronavirus passed from a bat to an intermediate carrier, who then passed this virus on to humans, among whom the virus began spreading exponentially.

Considering this theory, cleaning up the wildlife trade also seemed to be the most logical next step for the government. I am the last person who would have any lofty expectations for the CCP regime, but I still tend to think that if a pandemic that has killed millions globally literally emerged from a market, even the CCP would take some type of action to handle that.

And yet a year and a half later, no significant steps have been taken in this regard. Cursory online searches, the type of thing someone might do to pass their time during endless COVID lockdowns, show that the wildlife trade in China is still very much alive and well. In an era in which Beijing is cracking down on everything from ride-sharing apps to private tutors to karaoke songs, the continued open availability of pangolins, a presumed zoonotic source of COVID-19, boggles the mind.

Yet setting aside the matter of the goodwill of the CCP, would such a situation not also be a matter of great concern for the regime, which has repeatedly shown its steadfast determination to eliminate any and all COVID risks?

Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say COVID-19 emerged from animals at the Huanan Seafood Market. Wouldn’t the virus still be circulating in animal populations? And if this virus was still circulating, wouldn’t there then be a risk of yet another leap of a virulent strain from animals to humans, triggering a new outbreak?

And if even an anthropologist who got a B- in college biology is thinking over these risks, wouldn’t these risks be quite apparent to experts in the PRC government?

Yet there simply has not been the type of proactive action that one would expect from the regime in the aftermath of such an event.

The circulation of infectious diseases in animals is a matter of concern for the regime. I was living in China in the aftermath of SARS, and very vividly remember the repeated culling of civet cats, reported in gruesome detail in state media. Basically, the authorities would discover civet cats being traded (often in Guangzhou), would test the animals for SARS, and would kill thousands by drowning or electrocution.

Some people have recently floated the claim that it took a decade and a half to confirm the origins of SARS, with the implied message being that we need to be patient about investigating the origins of COVID-19.

This is nonsense.

Shi Zhengli indeed confirmed with a high degree of certainty in 2017 that SARS originated in horseshoe bats, but way back in 2003 everyone knew that civet cats were the intermediary carrier.

Where, then, is the intermediate carrier of COVID-19? Why have there not been subsequent discoveries of potential reservoirs of infection in animal populations? If COVID is this infectious in humans, certainly it is still circulating in animal populations?

Why does the PRC government, which has demonstrated its determination to wipe out any last trace of COVID-19, seem so completely disinterested in this matter, even allowing the presumed zoonotic suspects to continue circulating in trade?

The continued trade of animals that, according to the theory of zoonotic origins, may serve as reservoirs of COVID-19 would actually provide a very solid explanation for new outbreaks of COVID-19 in China. Yet this possibility is curiously never considered. Instead, the regime attributes the virus to visitors from abroad, or most puzzlingly to frozen food supply chains: a theory that even the WHO couldn’t swallow.

We are then being told that COVID-19 first passed to humans from animals, but that animal-to-human transmission is of no concern to the regime at the moment. Something about this feels off.

Furthermore, rather than sincerely pursuing animal origins, providing any type of evidence to support this claim, of which there should be plenty, the regime has instead dedicated the majority of its energies to blocking any investigation and floating bizarre conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus, claiming that it emerged in whichever country MOFA happens to be angry with at the moment: Italy, India, or of course the United States.

Recent incoherent claims have focused on various laboratories in the United States, some of which do not even research coronaviruses. One could say that that even the PRC authorities are getting on board with lab leak theory: forgetting that, very obviously, this virus originated in Wuhan, and that any claim to the contrary is completely untenable.

I am neither a biologist nor an epidemiologist. I am a political anthropologist who has spent a considerable amount of time studying CCP propaganda and cover-ups. The reflections above are derived primarily from my understanding of how the CCP political system works: or rather, does not work.

The possibility that the CCP regime is STILL engaged in a cover-up of the origins of COVID-19, even after millions have died globally, is difficult for many people to wrap their minds around. However, anyone like myself who is more familiar with the track record of the CCP over the past century will find this possibility at once deeply disturbing and eminently plausible.