The Chinese government maintained tight control of a World Health Organization investigation in Wuhan into the origins of the coronavirus, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which said that Beijing was granted veto power over which scientists were allowed to take part in the mission.
According to the Journal, the constraints placed on the WHO team rendered the scientists unable to conduct a thorough investigation into the virus’ origins.
A team of more than a dozen scientists, including one American, visited Wuhan last month, where they met with Chinese authorities and scientists to figure out how the coronavirus first infected humans.
A report of the investigation is expected to be released next week, after Chinese authorities have had a chance to review it and make edits, according to the Journal.
Some members of the WHO team, including Peter Daszak, the lone American on the mission, have dismissed one prominent theory that the virus originated from an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which studies coronaviruses.
Most of the scientists have said that they believe that the virus jumped from an animal species in Western China to humans, possibly at one of Wuhan’s outdoor food markets.
Daszak has come under criticism from some within the scientific community who say he has a conflict of interest because his organization, EcoHealth Alliance, has worked closely with the Wuhan Institute. Daszak also organized a group of scientists in February 2020 to release a letter that called the lab leak hypothesis a “conspiracy theory.”
Officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations have criticized the Chinese government for withholding information from the WHO team.
“We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Feb. 12.
Chinese authorities also exercised control over a WHO mission early last year.
Emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation show that Cliff Lane, the deputy to Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was required to sign a confidentiality agreement “tailored to China’s terms” before taking part in the February 2020 mission.
WHO officials began organizing the Wuhan investigation in July 2020, according to the Journal.
That month, two officials from WHO agreed with Chinese authorities on a “terms of references” document which laid out the goals of the investigation. But according to the Journal, the document did not call for full inspections of labs in Wuhan. It also gave Chinese authorities veto power over which scientists could join the team.
A spokesman for WHO, Tarik Jasarevic, told the Journal that the Chinese government did not object to any of the scientists chosen for the mission.
The WHO scientists visited a hospital early in their trip where they attended an exhibition that commemorated Chinese authorities’ “decisive victory in the battle” against the coronavirus. The exhibit also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the Journal.