A Chinese doctor who fled her home country under threat has claimed COVID-19 originated in a military lab and China and the World Health Organisation covered up facts about its human contagion early on.
Li-Meng Yan, whose family and friends have been interrogated and threatened by communist party officials since she left China in April, has become a coronavirus whistleblower in the US.
She was working as a virologist last December at Hong Kong University’s public health laboratory sciences division, a World Health Organisation infectious diseases research centre.
Her boss, Professor Leo Poon, asked her to investigate a mysterious cluster of SARS-like virus cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Professor Poon was one of the scientists engaged in identifying the genome sequence of the 2003 SARS coronavirus epidemic.
What Dr Yan found would be ignored by Beijing and further suppressed by the regime and its scientists.
Early in January she knew from the family clusters among the Wuhan cases there was human-to-human transmission and that other scientists in China had sequenced the COVID-19 genome.
She knew Wuhan had more cases than the Chinese government was admitting and she would come to believe Beijing’s claim the virus came from a Wuhan wet market which was a deliberate lie.
“They didn’t want public discussion. They were telling people not to worry,” she said.
Dr Yan was not the only medical official wanting to get out the truth about coronavirus.
On January 23, eight doctors were arrested for putting warnings about coronavirus on social media – authorities called it “spreading hoaxes” and then on February 7 one of them, Dr Li Wenliang, died.
During February, Dr Yan’s sense of alarm rose as coronavirus began its global spread, with clusters emerging in Lombardy, Italy, on the Diamond Princess berthed at Yokohama, Japan.
And then in South Korea, Iran, the Middle East and so on, by February 28 recording 84,090 cases and 2,874 deaths worldwide.
As the death tolls began to rise, Dr Yan realised she was had special knowledge about a global catastrophe underway which her own government was desperate to keep quiet.
In China, doctors were being told to only diagnose cases linked to Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market.
“I realised this was an emergency for the world,” she told Fox News.
“I could not stay silent.”
Dr Yan reported her findings many times, only to be told by one supervisor “keep silent and be careful”.
With growing dread that the information they had could save lives, but result in more deaths if it wasn’t released, the 36-year-old decided to fly to the US.
It would be a hard decision to do so for Dr Yan was married and the only child of an engineer father and teacher mother.
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She knew if she left she would never see her family again, and that they might be punished for her defection and revelation of what were state secrets.
But she knew if she revealed the information while still in China, she would be “disappeared and killed”.
On April 28, terrified and carrying only a small amount of luggage, Dr Yan boarded a flight for Los Angeles.
At LA airport she told border authorities her story and pleaded to be allowed to stay in the US.
Meanwhile, back home her home and office were searched and her loved ones threatened, with her parents being forced to publicly state she is a liar and a traitor.
Now in hiding in the US, Dr Yan told Dailymail.com she feared COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 may have been deliberately created in military laboratory experiments on bat coronaviruses.
China has since sought to sully her reputation and undermine her claims.
Last month, Hong Kong university issued a press release saying “HKU notes that the content of the said news report does not accord with the key facts as we understand them. “Specifically, Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at HKU during December 2019 and January 2020, her central assertion of the said interview.
“We further observe that what she might have emphasised in the reported interview has no scientific basis but resembles hearsay.”