Chinese social media is now rife with suspicions that COVID-19 may have originated in the U.S. after a Chinese government official demanded that the U.S. open one of its military bases to shed light into the origins of the virus.
“I want to emphasize that if the United States really respects the facts, please open the Fort Detrick base, and disclose more facts on the more than 200 biological laboratories overseas, and ask WHO experts to go to the United States to conduct traceability investigations,” China Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying said in a press conference.
Following Hua Chunying’s remark, the hashtag “#外交部” (Wàijiāo bù), which in Chinese means Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shot up as the number one trending topic in the Chinese social media site Weibo. To date, the hashtag now has 670 million views and 202,000 posts.
Most posts bearing the #外交部 hashtag are spouting left-field theories that the US have been staging “experiments with dangerous pathogens” in Fort Detrick under a secret military program. A number were saying they believe the theory, which they were taking as the official line of the Chinese state.
“We hope that politicians in the United States will respect science, show a minimum of conscience, stop playing tricks and political games, and provide a good environment for international traceability cooperation and international anti-epidemic cooperation. This is what should be done now,” Hua Chunying further said.
Theories about Fort Detrick as being the base of the supposed outbreak has been going around in Chinese state-sponsored media since last year, theories that to date have no solid footing beyond statements and conjectures.
Fort Detrick is an army installation in Frederick, Maryland. It became the center of the US effort to develop a biological weapons program during the Cold War era, and is now a base for biomedical research.
The comments by the foreign ministry spokesperson comes at a time when representatives of the World Health Organization are currently in China to investigate the supposed genesis of COVID-19. The ongoing investigation, however, has been testy so far as China pushes back on a number of requests from WHO, such as permission to interview people on the ground. The US has also criticized the constricting terms of the research visit.
Most scientists have largely debunked conspiracy theories that COVID19 has been developed in a lab, as indications suggest that the most likely origin was wildlife in the place where it was first identied, which was in Wuhan, China.