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Chinese health officials are defending their search to find the source of the coronavirus and criticized the leader of the World Health Organization after saying that China should have shared genetic information earlier.
Shen Hongbing, director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention called the comments “offensive and disrespectful,” accusing the organization of “attempting to smear China.” Hongbing said that the WHO should not be helping others “politicize COVID-19.”
Hongbing was responding to comments made by the WHO Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, when he said that newly disclosed genetic material from Wuhan should have been made available when the virus began.
“These data could have — and should have — been shared three years ago,” Ghebreyesus said on March 17.
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Peter Daszak (R), Thea Fischer (L) and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on February 3, 2021. (Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
“As a responsible country and as scientists, we have always actively shared research results with scientists from around the world,” Hongbing said at a press conference on Saturday.
The comments from Ghebreyesus in March came after Chinese data that was first made available in January was taken offline after researches offered to work with Chinese scientists in analyzing the data.
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A security person moves journalists away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
However, a team of international virus experts downloaded the data before it was taken offline and began to analyze it.
According to the researchers, the Chinese data points towards the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic could have began in a Wuhan seafood market where illegally traded raccoon dogs may have infected humans.
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Shen Hongbing, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a press conference on the origins of COVID-19 at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, Saturday, April 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
The researchers say that raccoon dogs left DNA in the same area of the Wuhan market where coronavirus genetic signatures were found.
Chinese officials have previously pushed back on this type of theory, saying that the coronavirus was brought in by sick people rather by animals.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in March the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by a lab leak in Wuhan, China.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News in an interview that aired Tuesday. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.”
“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody,” Wray added.
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FBI Director Christopher Wray. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In March, the Department of Energy assessed that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by an accidental lab leak in China.
The National Intelligence Council as well as four other government agencies assess at “low confidence” that COVID-19 originated as a result of natural transmission from an infected animal, but the CIA and other government agencies remain undecided.
Fox News’ Michael Lee and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Adam Sabes is a writer for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter @asabes10.