Chinese Government Imposes Restrictions On Research Into Coronavirus Origins

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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  • A Chinese government directive posted by two Chinese universities on Friday ordered that studies relating to the origin of the coronavirus outbreak “must be strictly and tightly managed.”
  • The directive was pulled from the public web hours after it was spotted by CNN on Friday.
  • Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana said Monday the Chinese government’s directive violates the 2005 International Health Regulations.

Academic studies from Chinese researchers on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic are subject to strict vetting from the Chinese central government, according to a directive posted by two Chinese universities Friday.

“[A]cademic papers about tracing the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed,” stated the directive issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education’s science and technology department.

The directive was removed from the internet hours after CNN first spotted the document on Friday.

“It is not supposed to be made public — it is an internal document,” an unnamed staffer at the Education Ministry told CNN after confirming it had issued the directive.

Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana said Monday the Chinese government’s directive violates the 2005 International Health Regulations, which he said “require transparent medical data sharing between & within countries.”

A spokesman for Banks told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the tweet was referring to Articles 6 and 10 of the 2005 International Health Regulations, which require World Health Organization member nations to report the “source and type of risk” of any public health emergency of international concern happening within its territory in a timely manner.

Banks issued a statement Wednesday calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr on to bring a criminal case against China for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak to the United Nations International Court of Justice.

The Chinese government’s directive requires multiple rounds of vetting for any research related to the origins of coronavirus. Researchers delving into the topic need to have their papers approved by their university’s academic committee, then the Education Ministry’s science and technology department, and then finally by a task force under the direction of the Chinese State Council, according to CNN.

One Chinese researcher who spoke with CNN under the condition of anonymity said the restrictions could result in the suppression of any information deemed contradictory to Beijing’s official narrative on the virus.

“I think the importance is that the international scientific community must realize that any journal or manuscripts from (a) Chinese research institution has kind of been double-checked by the government,” the researcher told CNN. “It is important for them to know there are extra steps between independent scientific research and final publication.”

TOPSHOT - Laboratory technicians work on testing samples from people to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a laboratory in Shenyang in China's northeastern Liaoning province on February 12, 2020. - The death toll from China's deadly COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic climbed past 1,100 on February 12 but the number of new cases fell for a second straight day, as the World Health Organization urged global unity to combat the "grave threat". (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Laboratory technicians work on testing COVID-19 samples China’s northeastern Liaoning province on February 12, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The directive came after two Chinese researchers submitted a paper to Research Gate in early February reporting their belief that the “killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.” (RELATED: Coronavirus Expert Says Virus Could Have Leaked From Wuhan Lab)

The paper was removed from Research Gate on Feb. 14 or 15, according to internet archives. The paper’s lead researcher, Botao Xiao, told The Wall Street Journal that he withdrew his paper because it “was not supported by direct proofs.”

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted Monday that the Chinese directive was proof that its government was “trying to suppress the truth about the origins of this disease in Wuhan.”

The World Health Organization did not immediately return a request for comment.

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