Tracing the origins of the New Coronavirus is once again one of the hot topics in the U.S. Congress. Senate Republicans this week introduced a new bill that would require China to cooperate with the international community and conduct a transparent and comprehensive investigation into the origins of the New Coronavirus pandemic or face sanctions against the Chinese Academy of Sciences and its affiliates.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced the COVID Act of 2021 on Monday (June 21) to pressure Beijing to cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the origins of the new coronavirus. investigation, including providing the international investigation team with relevant laboratory and hospital records, and allowing the team to conduct a full forensic investigation targeting the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, and other laboratories in Wuhan, among other locations.
The bill requires the international investigation team to conduct a detailed analysis of research conducted by Wuhan Institute of Virus expert Shi Zhengli and her team on 293 bat coronaviruses isolated between 2012 and 2015.
In particular, the bill requires that the international investigation team be composed of molecular biologists, virologists, epidemiologists and biosecurity experts selected by the governments of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Japan and India.
The bill mentions that the Chinese government will be able to designate Chinese experts to accompany the international investigation team within China, but will not have the right to interfere with the selection of the investigation team members, nor will it be able to block the participation of experts selected by foreign governments in the investigation team.
Rubio said that the world must find out the truth about the origin of the new coronavirus, which has killed millions of people worldwide, in order to prevent the next pandemic outbreak. He noted that China has so far shown no willingness to cooperate and that “the Chinese authorities cannot be expected to suddenly cooperate; the United States must force them to do so.”
“I know that if nothing is done, then there will be no pressure from China to do anything,” Rubio told Voice of America, “They don’t care about candor and transparency. They’re the only country in the world that does that kind of lab work but refuses to be transparent with the outside world. Ultimately, if we do nothing, the situation will not change.”
According to the bill, if the Chinese Communist Party does not allow the international community to conduct a credible and comprehensive investigation into the origin of the new coronavirus at the Wuhan Virus Institute laboratory, the bill would authorize the U.S. government to impose sanctions and other restrictions on relevant Chinese institutions and laboratories 90 days after the legislation takes effect.
The sanctions in the bill are centered around the leadership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, including more than 100 research institutes and laboratories associated with the CAS, 13 local branches, and two universities.
The bill would also prohibit federal funds from being invested in any joint academic research programs with CAS and its related institutions, as well as cease funding for more than 430 enterprises and institutions across 11 industry sectors created in partnership with or established by CAS.
In addition, the Act would prohibit any U.S. person or institution receiving federal funds from collaborating with a person or institution in China on “gain of function” virus research.
The New Coronavirus Act of 2021 has not yet been cosponsored by Democrats after its introduction. Rubio told Voice of America that he is actively reaching out to members of both parties in hopes of securing cross-party participation.
“We have several cosponsors of the bill, but we haven’t gotten any Democratic support for it, and I hope that will change in the future,” Rubio said, adding, “It’s critical. It’s not even saying we know where the origins are, it’s just emphasizing that we need to allow an independent, transparent investigation.”
“(The epidemic) basically turned the whole world upside down, but they (China) are still out there continuing to do all kinds of research. The next pandemic outbreak could be much worse, but there’s still no transparency, and that’s a serious thing,” Rubio continued.
“If millions of people dying around the world isn’t serious, what is?”
Currently, there are two main theories surrounding the origin of the New Coronavirus pandemic that are prevalent in the U.S. community: that it originated from human contact with infected animals and that it originated from a laboratory virus leak. The idea that the virus was leaked from a laboratory had been dismissed as a conspiracy theory by the mainstream U.S. scientific community and media, but now a growing number of scientists and politicians are publicly calling for a serious investigation of this possibility.
White House national security adviser Sullivan told the media on the 20th of this month that China would face international isolation if it did not cooperate in a “real” investigation into the source of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview on “Sunday Fox News,” Sullivan said the United States will continue to strengthen cooperation with allies and partners until a thorough investigation is conducted into how the new coronavirus emerged and who is responsible for it. He stressed that the goal is to give China a clear choice: either allow investigators access in a responsible manner to conduct a “real” investigation to find the source of the virus, or face international isolation.
At the G-7 summit earlier this month, leaders expressed support for President Biden’s initiative to reopen the investigation into the source of the new coronavirus and urged China to grant “full access” to researchers.
Late last month, President Biden asked U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts” to gather information and analyze the origins of the New Coronavirus pandemic that continues to ravage the world, and to report their findings to the White House in 90 days.
On the same day as Biden’s statement, the Senate passed a bill requiring the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information on the origins of the new coronavirus, including research conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research for the People’s Liberation Army and research on the new coronavirus conducted by the institute prior to the outbreak.
Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a floor speech that day, “The American people deserve to know the origins of the New Coronavirus. They deserve to know how this pandemic has severely damaged our country and the entire world, and they deserve to know how the pandemic began and what role China played.”
“It is time for the United States to take action and lead the international community in a full forensic investigation of the Wuhan laboratory.” Rubio said in a written statement Monday.