A document written by Chinese scientists and Chinese public health officials in 2015 discussed the weaponisation of SARS coronavirus, reveals the Weekend Australian.
Titled The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons, the paper predicted that World War Three would be fought with biological weapons.
Released five years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it describes SARS coronaviruses as a “new era of genetic weapons” that can be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.
Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), told news.com.au that the document is as close to a “smoking gun” as we’ve got.
“I think this is significant because it clearly shows that Chinese scientists were thinking about military application for different strains of the coronavirus and thinking about how it could be deployed,” said Mr Jennings.
“It begins to firm up the possibility that what we have here is the accidental release of a pathogen for military use,” added Mr Jennings.
He also said that the document may explain why China has been so reluctant for outside investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
“If this was a case of transmission from a wet market it would be in China’s interest to co-operate … we’ve had the opposite of that.”
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Among the 18 listed authors of the document are People’s Liberation Army scientists and weapons experts.
Robert Potter, a cyber security specialist who analyses leaked Chinese government documents was asked by The Australian to verify the paper. He says the document definitely isn’t fake.
“We reached a high confidence conclusion that it was genuine … It’s not fake but it’s up to someone else to interpret how serious it is,” Mr Potter told news.com.au.
“It emerged in the last few years … they (China) will almost certainly try to remove it now it’s been covered.”
Mr Potter says it isn’t unusual to see Chinese research papers discussing areas that they’re behind on and need to make progress in and that doesn’t necessarily equate to action being taken.
“It’s a really interesting article to show what their scientific researchers are thinking,” he added.
The document is discussed in a new book What really happened in Wuhan by The Australian investigations writer Sharri Markson which will be published by HarperCollins in September.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been caused by a coronavirus named SARS-Co V-2 which emerged in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, several of which cause respiratory diseases in humans – ranging from a common cold to Severe Acute Respiritory Syndome (SARS).
Investigations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have concluded the virus was most likely of animal origin and crossed over to humans from bats.
Director of public health pathology Dominic Dwyer went to Wuhan in January as the Australian representative as part of WHO investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
He told The Conversation in February that the Wuhan wet market, which was initially blamed as the source of the virus, may not be the original source of the disease.
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“The market in Wuhan, in the end, was more of an amplifying event rather than necessarily a true ground zero. So we need to look elsewhere for the viral origins,” said Mr Dwyer.
On the hypothesis that the virus escaped from a lab, Mr Potter said that was highly unlikely.
“We visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is an impressive research facility, and looks to be run well, with due regard to staff health,” wrote My Dwyer.
“We spoke to the scientists there. We heard that scientists’ blood samples, which are routinely taken and stored, were tested for signs they had been infected. No evidence of antibodies to the coronavirus was found. We looked at their biosecurity audits. No evidence.”
In March WHO reported on their Wuhan visit and called for further investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table … We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began there have been 156 million cases of COVID-19 and 3.26 million deaths worldwide.
Riah Matthews is the commissioning editor for news.com.au.