China Admits Destroying Early Coronavirus Lab Samples But Denies Cover Up
Confirmed: Chinese government issued order to dispose of COVID-19 samples
China has admitted to destroying early coronavirus samples but the Chinese government insists the move was not part of a cover-up.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) issued an order to non-government-controlled labs to destroy samples of the deadly virus on January 3.
The admission from China confirms a claim put forward by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late last month.
On Friday, a supervisor with China's National Health Commission, Liu Dengfeng, admitted that "the Chinese government issued an order on January 3 to dispose of coronavirus samples" at "unauthorized" laboratories.
However, Liu denies the samples were disposed of as part of a cover-up, claiming they were destroyed to "prevent risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens."
He insists they had to be terminated in order to comply with Chinese public health laws because the labs were "unauthorized" to handle such samples, according to Newsweek.
Liu did not specify how many labs destroyed coronavirus samples, according to The Daily Mail.
The admission comes amid souring diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China over the COVID-19 outbreak - which originated in Wuhan late last year.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month accused the Asian superpower of not being transparent about the spread of the coronavirus.
"The Chinese Communist Party still has not shared the virus sample from inside of China with the outside world, making it impossible to track the disease's evolution," Pompeo stated at a briefing on April 22.
"We strongly believe that the Chinese Communist Party did not report the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a timely fashion to the World Health Organisation," he added.
"Even after the CCP did notify the WHO of the coronavirus outbreak, China didn't share all of the information that it had."
Pompeo continued: "Instead it covered up how dangerous the disease is.
"It didn't report sustained human-to-human transmission for a month until it was in every province inside of China.
"It censored those who tried to warn the world in order to halt the testing of new samples, and it destroyed existing samples."
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 4.7 million people around the world have tested positive to COVID-19 while at least 313,000 have died.
The United States has been disproportionately affected by the disease, with the country accounting for almost a quarter of global cases and deaths.
Earlier this week, President Trump gave an interview with Fox Business Network, where he said he was "very disappointed in China."
The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan in December and was spreading silently as the U.S. and China signed a Phase 1 trade deal hailed by Trump as a major achievement.
"They should have never let this happen," Trump said.
"So I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn't feel the same to me.
"The ink was barely dry and the plague came over. And it doesn't feel the same to me."
Meanwhile, a Department of Homeland Security report shared last Sunday revealed US officials believe China "intentionally concealed the severity" of the pandemic in early January and hoarded medical supplies.
The four-page report dated May 1 that was obtained by the Associated Press notes that China downplayed the virus publicly but increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies.
The document accuses China of covering their tracks by "denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data."
It lends weight to a leaked dossier drawn up by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance which describes how Beijing made whistleblowers "disappear," destroyed early virus samples, and scrubbed the internet of any mention of the disease in the early stages.
The 15-page document brands Beijing's secrecy over the pandemic an "assault on international transparency" and points to cover-up tactics deployed by the regime.
It claims that the Chinese government silenced its most vocal critics and scrubbed any online skepticism about its handling of the health emergency from the internet.
China has roundly come under fire for suppressing the scale of its early outbreak which did not afford other nations the time to react before the disease hit their shores.
Elsewhere, the CIA believes that China pressured the World Health Organization into delaying public warnings about coronavirus early in the outbreak, according to a report recently published in Newsweek.
The alleged delay came at a crucial time in January, as the virus was spreading around the world undetected and China was stockpiling medical equipment and protective gear made in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The contents of the CIA document, called "U.N.-China: WHO Mindful But Not Beholden to China," were confirmed to Newsweek by two U.S. intelligence officials.
It is the second Western intelligence report to indicate that China strong-armed the WHO into downplaying the risks of the epidemic after a German intelligence document reported by Der Spiegel suggested that Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally pressured WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The German newspaper cited intelligence from the country's Federal Intelligence Service, known as the "Bundesnachrichtendienst" (BND).
According to the BND: "On January 21, China's leader Xi Jinping asked WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to hold back information about a human-to-human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning.
"The BND estimates that China's information policy lost four to six weeks to fight the virus worldwide."
The WHO released a statement shortly after the publication of the shock claims, calling them "unfounded and untrue."