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13.7 million Chinese Sign Petition to Investigate U.S. Lab

The Chinese official media Global Times recently launched an online petition urging the international community to investigate whether the U.S. military’s Fort Detrick Biological Laboratory was the origin of the new coronavirus.

As of July 26, the petition was alive and the number of signatures has been growing over time. The signatories below the signature counter did not post any name, but simply stated that a “netizen” from somewhere in China had participated. The increase in the number of signatures is considerable. According to Global Times, the signatures began on July 17 and by July 22 more than 5 million people had signed. Just one day later, by midnight Beijing time on July 23, the number of signatures jumped to more than 9.4 million. By July 26, the number was over 13.7 million.

The petition is in response to an open letter allegedly signed by Chinese netizens in early June of this year calling for a WHO investigation into the U.S. Fort Detrick Biological Laboratory.

The letter claimed that the U.S. military’s Fort Detrick Biological Laboratory had a leak in the fall of 2019 on the eve of the Covid-19 outbreak, and that the U.S. side covered up the details in the interest of national security. This has led to concerns about whether the event was related to the coronavirus and to calls for a WHO investigation.

In fact, Fort Detrick has been a thorn in the side of Chinese officials since March of last year. Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said last March that the notion that the virus came from a U.S. lab was crazy. However, according to the website of Foreign Policy magazine, from early March last year until now, Chinese officials and state media have mentioned the Fort Detrick lab more than four hundred times in articles, videos, tweets and press conferences and have repeatedly asked the lab to open up for China to send its staff to investigate.

The narrative linking Fort Detrick to the coronavirus in these conversations is that U.S. Army soldier Maatje Benassi brought the virus from the Fort Detrick to Wuhan in October 2019 while he was there for the World Military Games.

Richard H. Ebright, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, denounced this claim as utter nonsense, telling Radio Free Asia that the analysis of the genome sequence of the coronavirus extracted from humans indicates that this virus infected human bodies in or near Wuhan sometime around September to November 2019.

According to public information, the Fort Detrick Biological Laboratory, which is part of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), did receive a directive from the Centers for Disease Control to close in 2019. The New York Times reported that a USAMRIID spokesperson said at the time that the closure was primarily due to a lack of proper disinfection of the lab, but that there was no threat that would endanger public safety, nor was there any leakage of hazardous materials that would cause injury to anyone.

Source: Radio Free Asia, July 22, 2021