China pushes conspiracy theory that Covid-19 emerged from Fort Detrick labs at Maryland military base
As Beijing faces a growing chorus to allow a probe into its role in the Covid-19 disaster, Chinese state media is attempting to review a conspiracy theory about the origins of the pandemic.
Attacking the US response to the outbreak, two government-run newspapers published op-eds defending Beijing against allegations of covering up the initial outbreak, failing to warn the world about the same, and deliberately underreporting the number of infections and deaths across China, Newsweek reports.
Despite growing pressure from Western nations and the World Health Organization, the Chinese Communist Party is refusing to allow an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
While President Donald Trump initially praised China for its handling of the outbreak, his administration has since pivoted to blame China for the global crisis, which has infected over 4.2 million people and killed more than 289,000 as of Tuesday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump has cited US intel claiming the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and did not originate at a wet market in the city as conventionally believed.
But state media backed by the CCP have gone on to defend the regime and engaged in a disinformation campaign about the pandemic. The China Daily newspaper, which is owned by the CCP's propaganda arm, published an op-ed on Monday claiming the outbreak may have started in the United States.
According to Newsweek, the outlet accused the Trump administration of "trying to dodge some pertinent questions that could be asked of it." They also mentioned Fort Detrick, a Maryland military base that has hosted a biological weapons research program for decades until suspending such activities in August 2019.
Chinese officials have previously floated conspiracy theories claiming Fort Detrick could be involved in the pandemic, although they have furnished no evidence to support the assertion. "What are the circumstances surrounding its shutting down of the army biological warfare lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland last year?" China Daily asked. "Was the laboratory conducting research on coronaviruses? Was there a leak?"
That said, the People's Daily newspaper, which is the official publication of the CCP, discussed the same theory in its Tuesday op-ed.
"Why was the main biological warfare laboratory at Fort Detrick, which the U.S. media called 'the center of the U.S. government's darkest experiments,' suddenly shut down?" it asked. "What kind of shady tricks took place there? How much more truth has been concealed by U.S. politicians?"
However, neither outlet provided evidence to tie Fort Detrick to the outbreak, which was first identified in Wuhan.
Chinese officials have previously blamed the US army for the initial outbreak in Wuhan, again without any credible evidence.
Having said that, the biological warfare research programs at Fort Detrick were halted last year after fears that a newly installed decontamination system for lab wastewater was inadequate.
Caree Vander Linden, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, told The New York Times there was no threat to public health, no leaks of dangerous material, and no injuries to employees at the facility. She added that the freeze on research activities could last several months.