February 28, 2020
Dear Vice-President Pence:
We welcome your leadership role in protecting Americans from the coronavirus (COVID-19). I am taking the liberty to address you with information we believe highly pertinent to the United States Government’s relations with China concerning this threat.
At a press conference on the “Prevention and Control of the Coronavirus Epidemic” held by the City Government of Guangzhou on Feb. 27, Professor Zhong Nanshan, China's leading expert on COVID-19, claimed that the origin of the coronavirus has yet to be established. While the first infections were reported in China, he said that given outbreaks of the disease elsewhere, the virus may not have originated in China.
Given Zhong’s official status as the leading expert of China’s National Health Commission and, hence, one of the faces of the country’s effort to contain the virus, his statement, largely overlooked by international media, has important implications.
As you know, numerous conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus have appeared, including those attributing it to the United States. Many in China believe and spread the rumor that the US launched the virus as a biological bomb through the 7th CISM Military World Games, which were held in Wuhan on Oct. 18-27, 2019. Five athletes were hospitalized during and immediately after the games. Nobody knows the role of the Chinese government in the origin and spread of this rumor.
The United States, relevant international organizations like WHO and the United Nations, and indeed the entire international community, should have from the onset of this crisis, pressed the Chinese authorities to provide information about the origin of the virus, or at least allow an international investigation on this question. We cannot understand the virus, and know how to contain it, if we do not know its origins, and China’s obfuscations are thus an international public health threat.
Now that Zhong is second guessing the widely believed origin of the virus, it is time for the US and the international community to forcefully pursue this question. We thus respectfully urge you to take lead in this endeavor as a major element of your mandate:
Press China to be transparent in all respects, and to welcome and facilitate international investigations on the question of whether, and how, the coronavirus was originated from China. In this connection, the United States, in cooperation with other governments, WHO, and other relevant international bodies, should press China to be open to and cooperate with such investigations.
Thank you for your attention to our recommendation.
Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China