China imposes curbs on research papers on coronavirus origin
Beijing, Apr 14: China has imposed restrictions on the publication of academic research papers on the origin of coronavirus, according to an American media report amidst its public spat with US President Donald Trump for calling it a "Chinese virus" and the growing interest all over the world about how and where the pandemic originated.
CNN reported on Monday that two Chinese universities published on their websites the central government directive stating that under the new policy, all academic papers on COVID-19 will be subject to extra vetting before being submitted for publication.
Studies on the origin of the virus will receive extra scrutiny and must be approved by central government officials, according to the online posts on Fudan University in Shanghai and China University of Geoscience in Wuhan which were subsequently deleted following inquiries, according to the American news network.
After containing coronavirus in its epicentre, Wuhan, where the virus first reported in December last year, China has firmly opposed to Trump calling COVID-19 as "Chinese virus" and "Wuhan virus", saying such allegations amounted to stigmatising the country.
On April 9, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, while replying to allegations of cover-up by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said: "China was the first country to report COVID-19 to the World Health Organization (WHO) that doesn't mean the virus originated from Wuhan".
"Epidemic may break out first anywhere in the world. But its origin is a matter of science and we should leave it to science and medical community," Zhao who earlier created a storm by alleging in a tweet on March 12 that US army may have brought the virus to Wuhan leading to a diplomatic protest by Washington.
Initial reports said the virus reported to have originated from the Hunan Seafood Market in Wuhan where live animals are sold. It was subsequently shut down and has not been re-opened so far.
The US has accused China of delayed action resulting in the pandemic spreading to other countries, an allegation Beijing vehemently refuted, asserting it was working with the international community in an "open and highly responsible manner" to contain the global crisis.
About the new restrictions on the publication of research studies on the coronavirus origin, CNN quoted a Chinese researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying that the move was a worrying development that would likely obstruct important scientific research.
"I think it is a coordinated effort from (the) Chinese government to control (the) narrative, and paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China. And I don't think they will really tolerate any objective study to investigate the origination of this disease," the report quoted the researcher as saying.
The coronavirus pandemic has so far killed over 114,000 people and infected more than 1,850,000 in 193 countries and territories since it first emerged in China in December.