It’s clear who’s the one undermining the norms of science

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WHO
WHO

By Zhong Sheng

A joint statement was issued Tuesday, July 27, in the name of so-called science officials from the US and its allies, in support of the second phase of the WHO-led COVID-19 origin study. 

It says if China rejects the second phase of the study, then the country is not taking its responsibility to help the world learn a lesson from the crisis, and destroying the recognized norms long held by the science community.

As a matter of fact, this statement, which shows no respect to facts at all, shall be thoroughly studied by the US, rather than China, as it’s clear enough who’s not working to get rid of the pandemic and not protecting the norms of science.

The second phase of the origin tracing study recently proposed by the WHO is a document that has nothing to do with objectivity or the spirit of cooperation. It is not a plan that seeks the origins of the novel coronavirus, but one that tries to discredit China. China will never accept it.

China not only is the first country to have put COVID-19 under control, but also tries its best to offer materials, information and vaccines for the international community to tide over difficulties. Meanwhile, China is also the first country to share relevant data with the WHO and join the origin tracing work in an all-round manner.

Earlier this year, a WHO-China joint team on the global study of the origins of COVID-19 launched a science- and evidence-based investigation into China. Being open, transparent, science-based and cooperative, China fully supported the work of the joint team and totally met its demands for investigation. The country has set a good example for international cooperation on origin tracing.

The joint team studied how the virus was introduced to the human world with scientific evidence, and reached a conclusion that a lab leak was extremely unlikely, which was later broadly recognized by the international science community.

In fact, the China part of the global study of the origins of COVID-19 has been completed. However, the US, the most developed country in the world, is still experiencing a tragedy of over 611,000 deaths and nearly 35 million infections, and its arbitrary policies are making the virus spread to neighboring countries in a very fast manner. Given such facts, which country is not taking responsibility to help the world get out of the crisis?

The origin tracing study is a race between science and the virus, which is both serious and urgent. The second phase of the study shall be an extension of the first-phase one, and what was done in the first phase, especially by those that have reached a clear conclusion, should not be repeated, as to waste time is to disrespect lives.

More and more scientific studies indicated that COVID-19 could have originated in multiple countries and regions, and the cases of infection in the US and some other countries were earlier than the first case in China’s Wuhan. 

However, the second phase study insists that lab leak shall be a focus, and ignores the significant clues of cold chains and the studies of early patients. Pointing fingers at China, it not only groundlessly denies the science-based conclusions reached in the first-phase study, but also turns a blind eye to the grave situation in the US and other countries.

Who’s damaging scientific rules by making such a plan that goes against science and common sense? This question makes people infer that the so-called second phase of the origin tracing study has been severely disturbed by politics and deviates from science. Just as an expert said, the second phase of the study is an insult to the scientists who have spent months searching for the origins of the pandemic, as well as a betrayal to science and facts.

The second phase of origin tracing disturbs and destroys international cooperation and the global efforts to fight the pandemic. The Resolution 73.1 adopted by the 73rd World Health Assembly requests the WHO to keep close cooperation with relevant international organizations and member countries, and search for the origins of COVID-19 on animals and its routes of transmission to humans through scientific collaboration and field investigations. This means that the next phase of the origin tracing study must be led by WHO member countries and the WHO must conduct extensive consultation with them for a final consensus. The draft of the work plan should be open and transparent, and shouldn’t be manipulated by a few countries. However, the second phase study was proposed in a non-transparent manner, and is a product of political manipulation. So far, 60 countries have sent letters to the WHO to express their recognition of the first-phase results and opposition against politicizing the issue. It fully indicated international justice and the voices of these countries must be respected.

To find the origins of the virus can effectively prevent the rise of similar pandemics. Origin tracing must not be contaminated by political virus, and is not a tool for a few countries to shirk responsibilities and oppress other countries. No one should employ it to divide the international society. Opposing the politicized second phase origin tracing study, China is indeed safeguarding the scientific nature and impartiality of origin tracing, the general picture of the global efforts to fight the pandemic, as well as the health and wellbeing of mankind. 

When requesting China to safeguard the norms of science in the joint statement, the so-called science officials said they hope the standards could apply to the whole world, including their own countries. However, such fake impartiality is just ironic. If they really mean it, they should ask their own countries and governments to be open and transparent, and invite WHO experts to launch origin tracing studies in their own countries, just like what China has done. They should also suggest their own governments to abandon political manipulation over origin tracing and deal scientific issues with science. That’s what science officials should do.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)

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