(TibetanReview.net, Apr12’20) – In an attempt to control the narrative surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, China is cracking down on publication of academic research about the origins of the novel coronavirus, reported theguardian.com Apr 11, citing documents published online by Chinese universities.
The report noted that two websites of leading Chinese universities appeared to have recently published and then removed pages that referenced a new policy requiring academic papers dealing with Covid-19 to undergo extra vetting before they are submitted for publication.
The report cited notices posted on the websites of Fudan University and the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) as saying research on the origins of the virus was particularly sensitive and subject to checks by government officials. Both the deleted pages were reported to have been accessed from online caches.
With the virus having infected more than a million people worldwide and caused heavy casualties particularly across Europe and the US, details about its origin and the first weeks of the pandemic – when there was a cover-up by local officials – may be considered particularly sensitive, the report noted.
China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) appeared to have published and then deleted new requirements that academic papers dealing with the origins of the virus be approved by China’s ministry of science and technology before publication, the report said.
The report said a separate document which appeared to be from the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University had also said publication of research into the origins of Covid-19 would need approval from the science and technology ministry.
Another notice, which appeared to have been published on Apr 9 by the school of information science and technology at Fudan University in Shanghai, was stated to have called for “strict and serious” management of papers investigating the source of the outbreak.
The report cited a source as saying researchers submitting academic papers on other medical topics did not have to vet their work with government ministries before seeking publication.
The notices are seen as part of a broader push by China to manage research on the virus. The science and technology ministry was cited as saying Apr 3 that ongoing clinical research on the coronavirus must be reported to authorities within three days or be halted.
The report noted that in Mar 2020, China’s president, Xi Jinping, published an essay that included “tracing the origin of the virus” on a list of national priorities.
While the exact origin of the pandemic is still not certain, one commonly held hypothesis is that it began following an interaction between a human and an animal at the Huanan seafood “wet market” in Wuhan, the report noted.
“There is a desire to a degree to deny realities that are staring at us in the face … that this is a massive pandemic that originated in a place that the Chinese government really should have cleaned up after Sars,” the report quoted Kevin Carrico, a senior research fellow of Chinese studies at Monash University, as saying.
The report noted that around a month ago senior Chinese diplomats, officials and state media all publicly encouraged speculation that the new coronavirus could have come from outside the country. And the foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested without evidence that the US military might have brought the virus to Wuhan.