A former leader of the UK Conservative Party and head of the parliamentary Alliance on China, Iain Duncan Smith, has accused Beijing of trying to get rid of alleged evidence of the involvement of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the start of the current pandemic, citing an unconfirmed report from the Daily Mail. The newspaper claims that some 300 research papers related to the institute, which is located near the purported site of the first outbreak of COVID-19, had been purged from the website of state-run National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).
"China is clearly trying to hide the evidence. It is vital that there is a thorough investigation into what happened but China seems to be doing all it can to stop that happening", Duncan Smith said.
The member of the British Parliament, who is also leader of an inter-parliamentary alliance focused on promoting "a coordinated response" to allegedly dangerous actions and plans of China, has claimed that he is aware of what was going on at the Wuhan laboratory. Duncan Smith claimed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had "played around" with "bat coronaviruses", but accidentally released it in Wuhan – the first city to report the novel disease.
NSFC Reportedly Removes Hundreds of Papers From Public Access
Duncan Smith referred to a Daily Mail report claiming that hundreds of papers had been purged from the NSFC's website, including research carried out by the Wuhan Institute of Virology and specifically by virologist Shi Zhengli, who is known for her purportedly frequent visits to bat caves to collect new samples to study. The Wuhan lab received international attention due to the nearby city becoming the first reported epicentre of COVID-19, as well as due to unsubstantiated claims, supported by US authorities at the highest level, that the virus originated in the lab.
At the same time, Beijing denies being responsible for the emergence and spread of the coronavirus. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that his country has conducted numerous studies into the origins of the pandemic and stressed that these so far suggest that COVID-19 "likely" emerged in a series of separate outbreaks in multiple places around the world.