Ever since she's claimed that the novel coronavirus has been a result of a man-made laboratory intervention in China, Dr Li-Meng Yan has been in the eye of a storm.
Her research paper has been termed 'unscientific' and one 'without evidence' by the Chinese authorities and she's had to flee from her home country of HongKong to take refuge in the US to keep herself alive. Her family is being "controlled and monitored closely" by the Chinese Communist Party and she's had to cut off all ties with them to protect them.
On a Friday evening, as she spoke over a video call from New York the bespectacled scholar and virologist from China Dr Li-Meng Yan looked every bit calm and composed, far removed from the present circumstance she finds herself in. Dressed in a black skater dress with a microphone plugged into her ears, as she connected for an interview with The Week, the tension and that desperate urge "to chase the truth and bring it in front of the world," was evident from the way she took on questions and answered each one with conviction.
Dr Yan has taken the bold step to go against her peers, colleagues, the government and the society when claiming that the Chinese government covered up the dissemination of information relating to SARS-CoV-2 and that it is a product of genetic engineering and manipulation. She's even gone against the WHO where her husband is currently employed. "The truth is important, not me," she says.
What is your current state of mind like?
From January to now I have been trying to fight lies and bring out the truth. But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the others including the world Health Organisation (WHO), scientific world and the media are trying their best to suppress me. I don't want to push anyone to trust me. People can verify. But one must see both sides. The thing is I'm happy that more and more people realise that this is a problem. Over the past half year, many people just believed the authorities. They ignored this possibility, this fact that the virus came from the lab and is not a mere natural disaster. Now people started realising it and that's a good thing. They can now find more facts to support their investigation, discuss it, share the ideas. This way the Chinese Communist Party's suppression can be broken down. Also, I'm working on the second scientific report to show the world scientific evidence.
I'm also shocked that all the people who I have worked with in the past months have have been lying to the public about the origin of the virus, thereby ignoring the safety of the world at large. Now even when I put my scientific report out, the top experts in the field, lie. And people believe them because they are experts. For example, from the 19th January, Lu De's broadcast channel in Chinese helped me deliver a message that the virus was man made and important people in the government listened to that which went against the Chinese Communist Party. When the authorities watched the broadcast, they knew someone inside delivered the truth outside so that's why they admitted that there was indeed a transmission going on, it was human to human and that the cases had already tripled, were taking place all over China not only in Wuhan. Just a few hours after the broadcast, the chairman Xi Jinping published the first chairman statement of 2020 to upgrade the SARS 2 disease at the same level as SARS 1, as a very serious infectious disease. But despite us pushing to help people, this government allowed people to go all over the world, and WHO said that masks do not work, there's no need to be scared, there won't be pandemic, to not impose PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) on China, and later also said not to use Hydroxychloroquine. But as per my intelligence and research it was wrong and irresponsible to dismiss HCQ.
At present, I'm getting help from the US, from the people who support anti-Chinese communist party, and from leading scientists all over the world, who believe in the fact that the novel coronavirus was indeed man-made. But still the attacks from the Chinese government and its colleagues against me are going strong.
You say that you came to know of the human to human transmission in China as early as December 31. But China and WHO confirm such transmission only on January 20. Why do you think the delay happened?
Initially from December 31st, I was assigned to the WHO H5 reference lab at the Centre of Influenza Research at Hong Kong University (HKU) by my supervisor, Poon, Lit Man Leo (professor and division head at the University of Hong Kong) to track the new, unknown pneumonia happening in Wuhan because they lacked the information through Chinese official channels. At that time I already got confirmed information that sequence is isolated in Wuhan already. Over 40 cases had happened at that time but they claimed 27. A paper in the New England Journal admitting that they too knew it since December. But then the Chinese government came out with a white paper to impose their versions and make people quiet.
From local doctor to CDC (Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention) staff in a way in Hong Kong we are not allowed to know anything unless government tells us or gives the information. Nobody knew what was happening. Even those inside the hospitals were asked to remain quiet, unaware of the kind of treatment patients were given, what for, and what they were undergoing. It was highly suspicious.
The prime broadcaster from CDC postponed the results. Our government has many, many ways to hold the truth. They made sure everyone bought the theory that the seafood market was the problem and that was all one big lie.
You said Professor Malik Peiris, a renowned virologist who has been researching emerging viruses at the animal-human interface, knew about the cover up but did nothing. How did you come to know of his involvement and what did he exactly cover up?
I knew him even before I came to that department. I came to the university of Hong Kong in 2012 July and I met my husband there. My husband is also another expert working for WHO for the emerging diseases sphere. He is on the staff of Professor Malik. They both come from Sri Lanka. We both know Malik for over ten years. Malik knows us quite closely and we even stayed at Malik's home. My supervisor was also on the staff of professor Malik earlier. So everything I discussed with the former, or with my husband is known to Malik immediately and I know it because I get feedback too. You see it's a very small group. So, although he knew everything he didn't act. So basically, I can tell you Dr Tederos and others in leading positions, including MariaVan Kerkhove who is the technical lead at WHO have very strong connections with Malik. And so nothing got done. Malik had strong connections with China government. So both, the Chinese and the WHO kept everything under the carpet. CCP insists that Wuhan Hunan seafood market and wild animal are the origin of SARS-CoV-2 from the beginning. But dont allow scientists to investigate the market and collect samples. They can't even provide any positive sample with suspicious animal hints like hair/shit/DNA. However, they still cleaned the market so that there would be no way for others to find out the evidence.
You said that your lab in the university of Hong Kong also knew it, your supervisor knew about it but nobody said or did anything.
My supervisor insisted that I do this in secret. Apart from the two of us, Malik knew it. But in this secret investigation, my supervisor warned me repeatedly that I should be careful because the Chinese government don't want to release these things so he said do not cross the red line and if you have, you will be in trouble. You will disappear. And when I report to him, he would keep silent and during early January to January 16 he even asked me to stop investigation and after that he directly contacted my friend in CDC, saying now I will be in touch with him. You go do your work because it is dangerous. I cannot have you work on this because the government does not want people to know.
You say that the virus is man-made and that it can be made in six months. Can you substantiate your claim because scientists world over are saying that your claims are unscientific and lack evidence.
First, scientists who reject the lab origin theory are lying. I take full responsibility. They can sue me if they want. I put my name here but other authors are anonymous because I have to protect them, but they are real and real experts. Of course, I can tell you that the first report before I publish it has been read by many well-known people in the US government including the top experts. I have my contacts and gave it to them for their reviews.
There are two theories: One is the nature theory and the other is the theory of lab origins. The existing scientific publications supporting a natural origin theory rely heavily on a previously discovered bat coronavirus named RaTG13, which shares a 96% nucleotide sequence identity with SARS-CoV-2. However, I contest the existence of RATG13 in nature. Also, we live in a time when viral genomes can be engineered and manipulated to create novel coronaviruses. There has been a highly probable pathway for the laboratory creation of SARS-CoV-2and the evidence is present in the viral genome. Also, let me tell you that as per the natural evolution there may be a chance that the virus comes from animals through an intermediate host and jumps onto humans but that takes a very, very long time and coincidences such as bat meets a suitable intermediate host and bat virus luckily adapts to the new host, etc.
Meanwhile, nature origins can also be mimicked in laboratories. Here, the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 is suspiciously similar to that of a bat coronavirus discovered by military laboratories and the RBM that is, the receptor binding motif within the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 which determines the host specificity of the virus is suspiciously similar to that of SARS-CoV of 2003 and so between these two viruses there is a series of laboratory procedures that have happened. The genomic evidence suggests that the RBM has been genetically manipulated. Also, SARS-CoV-2 contains this unique furin cleavage site at the S1/S2 junction of the lineage B of Beta coronavirus is demonstrated in my report, which is otherwise completely absent in all other coronaviruses that can be found in nature. So then there is every possibility that this furin cleavage site has been inserted by man into the SARS-CoV-2 genome. So all that is needed is a backbone to create the virus and for this particular present novel coronavirus, a bat coronavirus ZC45 and/or ZXC21 come to be the closest backbone or shares the highest sequence identity with SARS-CoV2. Now, this backbone or template has already been existing with Chinese authorities ever since they were discovered in 2015 by labs in China. Once the template is available, it is just a matter of reconstruction of all the procedure of the virus from the bat coronavirus to the one that targets human beings. I'm also certain that although SARS-CoV-2 is created using Zc45/ZXC21, during its creation, changes must have been introduced to obscure the genetic connection between the two. From the very beginning, the scientific world tried to ignore the man-made lab origin theory. But they cannot explain why the bat coronavirus can travel into human and become much like humans. One very important fact is also that envelope (E) protein of SARS-CoV-2 and ZC45/ZXC21 virus is 100 per cent identical, which never happened among cross-species coronaviruses.
But 'The Proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,' the paper which was published in Nature, said that the virus was natural and that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone.
My second report, which is currently under progress will stress on this fact a bit more. The communist party influenced not only the Chinese scientists but also people overseas. Nature origin professor Dr Anderson attacked my report and me in the media saying that my paper is nonsense and that their analysis clearly shows that SARS-CoV-2 is neither a laboratory construct nor a purposefully manipulated virus. They are misleading people by way of these conceptions.
The SARS-CoV-2 does not like it in nature. That is why for thousands of years it never happened in this type of virus. To engineer and create a human targeting novel coronavirus, one would need to pick a bat coronavirus as the template or the backbone. This is not too much to ask for, because many research labs have been collecting samples of bat coronaviruses over the past two decades. The actual template could be ZC45 and/or ZXC21 or a close relative of them. Now to get this template bat virus to be converted into a coronavirus that can bind with human ACE2 receptor to infect humans, they would require to use molecular cloning to get the Spike protein to bind to human ACE2. Also, one would use reverse genetics to assemble the gene fragments of Spike, ORF1b and the rest of the backbone into a CDNA version of the viral genome. Then post carrying out the in vitro transcription to obtain the viral RNA genome, and transfection of RNA genome into cells we could have live and infectious viruses with the desired artificial genome.
All of this, when considered together is consistent with the hypothesis that the SARS-Cov-2 genome has an origin based on the use of ZC45/ZXC21 as backbone or a template for genetic gain-of-function modifications. Besides, this article 'The Proximal ....' is full of problems. It admitted some of the unusual characters in SARS-CoV-2 genome, like RBD and furin cleavage site in S1/S2. But they intentionally ignore the possibility of man-made origin and Zhoushan bat coronavirus. Instead, they only emphasise on the nature origin theory.
(continued in Part 2)