An expert witness who testified at the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing on the origins of COVID-19 slammed China for stonewalling international investigators.
Dr. Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told lawmakers Wednesday that a bipartisan investigation into the origins of COVID-19 is “three years overdue” and must prioritize holding China accountable for its lack of transparency during the pandemic.
“We are primarily here because the Chinese government has done everything in its power to prevent the type of investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic that is three years overdue and still urgently required. We are also here because there is more that we in the United States can and must do to push forward, even if China continues to stonewall,” Metzl said in his opening remarks.
The Chinese government has denied reports that it has refused to cooperate with the World Health Organization’s study into the origins of COVID-19.
A report published in Nature on Tuesday said that the WHO canceled the “second phase” of its investigations into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic because China would not permit researchers access to conduct their studies.
“China’s position on the study of the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is consistent,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Wednesday at a press conference in Beijing. “We always support and participate in science-based global origins tracing. At the same time, we firmly oppose all forms of political manipulation.”
The spokesman cited two previous envoys of WHO scientists allowed into the country, claiming this demonstrated China was “open” and “transparent” with the international community.
“China has shared more data and research findings on SARS-CoV-2 origins study than any other country,” Wang said. “This fully demonstrates China’s open, transparent and responsible attitude and its support for the work of the WHO and SAGO. China will continue to support science-based global origins tracing and keep up communication and cooperation with the WHO.”
However, Metzl said that China’s flat denial of the lab-leak hypothesis and repeated refusals to turn over data is anything but transparent.
“While the question of pandemic origins remains open, there can be no doubt that a research-related origin remains a very serious possibility, if not a distinct probability. There is no smoking gun proving a laboratory origin hypothesis, but the growing body of circumstantial evidence suggests a gun that is at very least warm to the touch,” he told House lawmakers.
Metzl said it is “inconceivable” that in the three years since the coronavirus pandemic began there has yet to be a full investigation into the origins of the virus.
“The primary reason there has been no comprehensive investigation into COVID-19 origins is the reprehensible actions of the Chinese government,” he said.
“Since the early days of the pandemic, China’s government has destroyed samples, hidden records, imprisoned brave Chinese journalists, gagged Chinese scientists, actively spread misinformation and done pretty much everything possible to prevent the kind of unfettered, evidence based investigation that is so urgently required,” he charged.
“Every person on earth must demand accountability from China, calling for a full investigation of pandemic origin,” Metzl continued, adding that scrutiny on China does not mean the U.S. and others should neglect to scrutinize their own response to the pandemic.
He said that while the U.S. should continue to seek scientific collaboration and diplomatic relations with China, “we cannot purchase these relationships by our silence.”
Fox News’ Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report.