03:32 GMT28 January 2021
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    Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019, the US has repeatedly claimed the virus was man-made and emanated from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology, allegations that Beijing denies.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has urged Washington to provide evidence of recent claims by US Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger that the COVID-19 pandemic was caused by a virus leak from a Chinese biolab.

    The Chinese newspaper Global Times cited Hua as saying during a press conference on Monday that Pottinger's claims were nothing but rumours and that Beijing wants explanations on whether it was the national security adviser's own point of view or the US government's stance.

    "As a senior US official, Pottinger still continues to hype such shoddy lies and rumours […]. If the US continues to hype the issue, please show evidence to back it up to the world", Hua emphasised.

    She added that to prove the false nature of such conspiracy theories, Chinese scientists have a spate of interviews, and that US reporters visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology to cover the relevant management and research procedures underway there.

    (FILES) This file photo taken on April 17, 2020 shows an aerial view of the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province
    © AP Photo / HECTOR RETAMAL
    (FILES) This file photo taken on April 17, 2020 shows an aerial view of the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province

    The spokeswoman also mused as to why the US has not invited World Health Organisation (WHO) experts to visit the Wuhan lab to dispel their doubts related to the origins of the virus.

    "The US has also established more than 200 overseas biological labs. What on earth are they trying to achieve? And why can't they invite international journalists to visit and look at those sites?", Hua noted.

    She expressed hope that "certain individuals in the US" would return to a more reasonable path and do their best to protect the lives and health of the American people amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    Credible Source of the Virus?

    The statement came a few days after Pottinger claimed without elaborating that "there is a growing body of evidence that the [Wuhan] lab is likely the most credible source of the virus".

    Pottinger, who was one of the first US officials to assert that the virus was man-made, reportedly ordered US intelligence agencies to search for such evidence in April 2020.

    His latest remarks came after Shi Zhengli, deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, insisted in late November that a new set of tests had indicated that the coronavirus did not originate from her virology lab.

    In May, the US national intelligence director's office said they had agreed with "the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified".

    President Donald Trump, however, apparently balked at his own intelligence agency's conclusions at the time by claiming that he saw evidence linking the coronavirus to a Chinese lab. POTUS said that Washington was "looking at it very, very strongly", but declined to clarify, adding, "I'm not allowed to tell you that".

    China has consistently denied that the coronavirus originated at one of its labs, with the country's Foreign Ministry citing WHO officials as saying that "there is no evidence" to confirm the virus was man-made.

     

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    biolab, origin, COVID-19, coronavirus, US, China
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