A Chinese academic who is spreading the conspiracy that China is responsible for the release of SARS-CoV-2 has hinted that information will soon be published to explain why well-informed scientists around the world have rejected their research.
Li-Meng Yan, a former postdoctoral fellow at Hong Kong University, has now presented two peer-reviewed papers that suggest that the corona virus strain causing COVID-19 was produced in a laboratory and is described as an “unrestricted bioweapon”.
The second paper, published last month, accused academics and public health experts of corruption after the scientific community flatly rejected the unsubstantiated allegations in the first paper, published in September.
Both papers are related to the Society for the Rule of Law, a non-profit organization founded by Steve Bannon, a former advisor to President Trump, who is currently facing unrelated fraud allegations. Virologists say evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 was probably first transmitted to humans from an animal source, possibly bats or pangolins.
Yan indicated on Twitter yesterday that she would soon try to explain why a large number of legitimate scientists had thwarted her research by posting several images that she said contained “clues” to the answer. In a retweet, Yan promoted a post that claimed that the “world’s best medical experts” were “completely controlled” by the Chinese state.
Without going into detail, Yan tweeted on Sunday: “People keep asking: Why are so many scientists working hard to deny and slander the origin of COVID-19 and two Yan reports from the lab in the media? Check the references in the picture. I will tell you more later.”
The images seemed to indicate that two scientists from Columbia University – W. Ian Lipkin, MD, and Angela Rasmussen, PhD, would be part of their explanation.
According to a university press release in January of this year, Lipkin was honored by China for his work on infectious diseases and earlier this month received a medal at the Chinese Consulate in New York in recognition of his “profound impact” on the country.
A picture posted by Yan out of context was a screenshot of a university website, showing that Lipkin and Rasmussen received a faculty scholarship of $1,928,869. Rasmussen was an outspoken critic of Yan’s groundless claims. Previously he had claimed that the second paper was unchecked propaganda with a “shit show of disinformation.
A third image was a screenshot from an academic paper co-authored by Lipkin, which suggested two plausible scenarios of origin, both of which included “zoonotic transmission.
“It is unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 was caused by laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus,” said the peer-reviewed paper published in Nature.
Rasmussen responded to the weekend’s Twitter post by doubling her criticism of Yan’s earlier research and questioning the funding of Yan’s analysis. She wrote: “Whatever half-baked conspiracy theory you are trying to expose, Dr. Yan, that is not the reason why I commented on it. It’s because the laboratory origin is not supported by the evidence, no matter how many absurd preprint ‘reports’ you don’t get from peer review”.
Rasmussen added: “The scholarship I get according to the screenshot? Is funded by the US Department of Defense. My salary and research have never been supported by funds from China… but speaking of conflicts of interest, who is funding Dr. Yan?
Including the scholarship I get according to the screenshot? Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. My salary and my research have never been supported by China, neither by the government nor by the private sector. But speaking of conflicts of interest, who finances Dr. Yan?
– Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) November 2, 2020
Washington Newsday has approached Lipkin and Rasmussen with a request for comments.
Yan remains active on Twitter, although her original account was suspended in September, and has gained more than 57,000 followers at the time of writing this article. She also appears to be active on Facebook, with a header that describes the virus as a “biological weapon”.
Last month, Yan stated that she believes her life is in danger because of her revelations. “What I will do is spread the message as widely as possible and show the facts so people can check them before they kill me,” she said.
The University of Hong Kong already said in July that Yan no longer works there and “has never done research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus”.