In an attempt to tamper with the narrative surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, China has put a hold on the publication of academic research about the origin of the novel coronavirus, documents published online by Chinese universities show, reports The Guardian.
Proof about how websites of two leading Chinese universities appear to have published and then removed pages show that Beijing is trying to hide facts about the origin of the deadly virus. The reason behind deleting was said to be in terms with a new policy requiring academic papers dealing with COVID-19 to undergo extra vetting before they are submitted for publication.
Highlighting the fact that research on the origins of the virus is particularly sensitive, the notices posted on the websites of Fudan University and the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) said they are subject to checks by government officials.
The Guardian says that they have accessed the deleted pages through the cache. China’s attempt to intervene with research papers was alerted to the publication by an anonymous source.
Director of the SOAS China Institute in London Prof Steve Tsang said: “If these documents are authentic it would suggest the government really wants to control the narrative about the origins of COVID-19 very tightly.”
The new policy lays emphasis on checking the accuracy of the thesis, as well as whether it is suitable for publication. It is also stated that once the checks have been completed, the school should report to the Ministry of Science and Technology, and it should only be published after it has been checked.
Publication of research into the origins of COVID-19 would need approval from the science and technology ministry, a document reportedly from the Renmin Hospital in Wuhan which could not be verified said.
Unaware of any recent change to rules for academic research in China, a senior research fellow of Chinese studies at Monash University Kevin Carrico said that the documents were consistent with efforts to control the pandemic’s narrative.
“They are seeking to transform it from a massive disaster to one where the government did everything right and gave the rest of the world time to prepare,” he added.
Beijing is looking at all possible ways to escape the blame game but is efficiently contributing to it. The foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested without evidence that the US military might have brought the virus to Wuhan. The government has entertained all the speculations and allegations which suggest that the virus came from outside.