Beijing Knew About COVID-19 Outbreak In Nov. 2019
As a China specialist for the Rand Corporation and as a political officer in East Asia for the US State Department, Toy Reid learned how to interpret a notoriously opaque language: The “partyspeak” practiced by Chinese Communist officials.
Photo Insert: For 15 months, Reid loaned this unusual skill to a nine-person team dedicated to investigating the mystery of COVID-19’s origins.
Party speak is “its own lexicon,” explains Reid, now 44 years old. Even a native Mandarin speaker “can’t really follow it,” he says.
“It’s not meant to be easily understood. It’s almost like a secret language of Chinese officialdom. When they’re talking about anything potentially embarrassing, they speak of it in innuendo and hushed tones, and there’s a certain acceptable way to allude to something,” Reid told Katherine Eban and Jeff Kao of Vanity Fair and Pro Publica.
For 15 months, Reid loaned this unusual skill to a nine-person team dedicated to investigating the mystery of COVID-19’s origins. Commissioned by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., members examined evidence, most of it open source but some classified, and weighed the major credible theories for how the novel coronavirus first made the leap to humans.
An interim report, released on Thursday by the minority oversight staff of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic was “more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident.”
As Reid burrowed into the party branch dispatches, he became riveted by the unfolding picture. They described intense pressure to produce scientific breakthroughs that would elevate China’s standing on the world stage, despite a dire lack of essential resources.
Even at the BSL-4 lab, they repeatedly lamented the problem of “the three ‘nos’: no equipment and technology standards, no design and construction teams, and no experience operating or maintaining (a lab of this caliber).” And then, in the fall of 2019, the dispatches took a darker turn, talking about inhumane working conditions and “hidden safety dangers.”
On Nov. 12, a dispatch by party branch members at the BSL-4 laboratory appeared to reference a biosecurity breach.
“Once you have opened the stored test tubes, it is just as if having opened Pandora’s Box. These viruses come without a shadow and leave without a trace. Although (we have) various preventive and protective measures, it is nevertheless necessary for lab personnel to operate very cautiously to avoid operational errors that give rise to dangers. Every time this has happened, the members of the Zhengdian Lab (BSL4) Party Branch have always run to the frontline, and they have taken real action to mobilize and motivate other research personnel,” it said.
Reading between the lines, Reid concluded: “They are almost saying they know Beijing is about to come down and scream at them.” And that, in fact, is exactly what happened next, according to a meeting summary uploaded nine days later.