GOP China Task Force leader says Chinese military may have taken over Wuhan lab in 2019

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The Republican head of the House’s China Task Force revealed new testimony that the Chinese military may have taken over the Wuhan Institute of Virology earlier than previously reported, which he said added evidence indicating COVID-19 originated in the lab.

Rep. Michael McCaul, ranking GOP member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the revelation during a Tuesday panel presentation organized by House Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

“New testimony now received by my committee reveals the Chinese military potentially took over this lab, not in January 2020 as was reported, but earlier in 2019,” McCaul said. “The Chinese military were actually in the facility at the time of 2017. That signals the CCP was worried about something at the lab before the world even knew what COVID-19 was. Why else would they put the Chinese military in charge?”

A State Department fact sheet released in January contended Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving the bat coronavirus identified by Wuhan virologists in January 2020 as its closest sample to COVID-19,” and the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet also asserted lab workers became sick with coronavirus-like symptoms in autumn 2019.

The declassified fact sheet discussed “secret military activity” at the Wuhan lab noting, “Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.”

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McCaul said new facts “not only point to the Wuhan institute being the likeliest point of origin, but they establish a high likelihood that the virus was man-made as well.”

He added bluntly, “It wasn’t natural. It was a lab.”

“I now feel comfortable concluding that it is more likely than not that it came from the lab. In fact, I would say that there is credible evidence … As a former federal prosecutor, I can tell you that the preponderance of the evidence that it came from the lab is very convincing,” McCaul said. “Unfortunately, we may never know for certain because the Chinese Communist Party went to great lengths to cover up this outbreak.”

The Texas Republican said GOP members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would release an updated origins report in July.

A 90-page September report from McCaul contended China's cover-up and the World Health Organization’s fumbling of the crisis allowed the outbreak to cause a pandemic.

The report included a section pointing to “a series of outstanding issues with the WIV and its BSL-4 lab that compound the ongoing debate,” including the Chinese government’s “military takeover” of the lab.

“It is important to note the direct influence of the CCP within the WIV. The Director General of the institute is Wang Yanyi, who joined the China Zhi Gong Party, a CCP controlled minority party, in 2010. In 2018, the same year she became the Director General of the WIV, she was elected the Deputy Director of the Wuhan Municipal Party Committee,” the GOP report stated. “Until early 2020, the BSL-4 lab was managed by Yuan Zhiming. Yuan is the President of the Chinese Communist Party Committee within the Wuhan Branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to which the WIV belongs. Local CCP leaders not only run the WIV itself, but also directly managed the BSL-4 lab.”

The Republican report added: “After the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak began, Yuan was replaced on January 31, 2020. In a possible fulfillment of the concerns raised by the French defense and intelligence services almost two decades prior, he was succeeded by Major General Chen Wei, the PRC’s top biowarfare expert.”

An article by the Chinese state-run People’s Liberation Army Daily, published at the end of January 2020, claimed “the tent-type mobile testing laboratory urgently launched by the Academy of Military Medicine of the Academy of Military Sciences” in Wuhan “began operation on the morning of January 30.” The outlet said, “Members of the military medical expert group on this expedition are all the backbone forces of the Military Medical Research Institute who have been engaged in pathogen research for a long time … and represent the high level of the military's major epidemic management level.”

The South China Morning Post reported about Chen’s presence at the Wuhan lab in early March 2020.

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An article from August 2020 hosted on NIH’s website stated, “China’s official reaction has added fuel to the fires of suspicion” and contended that “in mid-February, Chen Wei, a major general in the People’s Liberation Army and a leading biological weapons expert at the Academy of Military Science, was appointed to take the helm at the WIV.”

The Biden administration and the United States’s allies are largely pinning hopes for a second COVID-19 origins investigation in China on the WHO, despite the WHO-China joint study team’s visit to Wuhan earlier this year that essentially dismissed the lab leak hypothesis.

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