Chinese defector's Covid study relies heavily on unverified sources

Revealed: Chinese defector’s study claiming that Covid-19 was man-made relies on unsubstantiated sources including anonymous blog, a LinkedIn article, and anti-GM activist website

  • Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan published paper claiming Covid was man-made  
  • Experts have blasted her report as ‘unsubstantiated’ and lacking ‘credibility’ 
  • MailOnline reviewed the paper, and found that she relies heavily on sources that have not been properly peer-reviewed in order to make her argument 
  • She alleges this is because of ‘censorship’ within the scientific community 

A paper published by a Chinese virologist that claims coronavirus is man-made relies heavily on unsubstantiated sources to make some of its key arguments, a MailOnline analysis of the document has revealed. 

The paper, published by Li-Meng Yan, references almost two dozen articles that have yet to undergo peer review – an important process where experts review papers before they are published in journals to ensure accuracy – at crucial points.

Other sources she relies upon include an anonymous blog, a LinkedIn article penned by an academic who is not a specialist in the field, and articles on an anti-GM foods website run by activists linked to a private university that practices ‘consciousness-based education’.

In at least one instance, MailOnline discovered that a single source was being presented as two different sources. Li’s paper itself has not been peer reviewed.

Experts have already blasted her work as ‘unsubstantiated’ and ‘lacking credibility’, while social media networks including Facebook and Twitter have censored it for ‘containing misinformation’.  

Li-Meng Yan, a Chinese virologist, has published a paper claiming that coronavirus was man-made – but it relies heavily on unsubstantiated research papers, MailOnline can reveal

Li-Meng’s paper does include a justification for using unverified sources, which she says is because ‘scientific journals have clearly censored any opinions… that suggest a non-natural origin of [coronavirus].’

She references two articles as evidence of this, one of which is a non-peer-reviewed paper by a German academic who claims ‘theories that consider a possible artificial origin for [coronavirus] are censored by international scientific journals.’ 

The other source is an interview by a Danish researcher who was due to publish a paper alleging that coronavirus was made in a lab, before that information was removed on peer-review.

In the interview, he talks about ‘a certain reluctance to publishing the article – without proper scientific objections’.

MailOnline has reached out to both researchers for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publication. 

Elsewhere in the paper Li-Meng – who claims to have fled China via Hong Kong in order to expose the truth behind Covid – argues that the virus was likely made in a lab because there is little evidence that it could have evolved naturally.

Among other sources the paper relies upon is an anonymous blog (top) and a website run by anti-GM food activists (bottom)

Central to her argument is what she describes as ‘substantially convincing evidence’ that Covid’s closest cousin – a virus found in a bat-infested mine seven years ago – has been ‘fabricated’ and that, in reality, it does not exist.

To back up this point she quotes six sources, all of which are articles that have not undergone peer review. 

Without a natural ancestor for Covid, Li-Meng argues that Chinese scientists could have genetically altered another coronavirus to create the pandemic virus.

She puts forward two candidates – ZC45 and ZXC21 – which are similar to Covid but cannot infect humans.

She suggests that one of these viruses was used as a ‘backbone’ for Covid, but deliberately altered to become ‘a highly-transmissible, onset-hidden, lethal… and massively disruptive pathogen.’

MailOnline has reached out to the organisations that published the paper, the Rule of Law Society and Rule of Law Foundation, for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publication. 

It has previously been revealed that both organisations were founded by ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon, 66, and 50-year-old Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui.

The study was authored by Li-Meng Yan, who purports to be a former researcher at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, and who has recently appeared on Fox News in the US and ITV in the UK.

Scientists have been unable to establish the precise origins of coronavirus, leading to theories that it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which studies the viruses (file)

LiMeng’s paper, which itself has not been peer reviewed, was published by a foundation founded by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon (left) and Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui

Ms Yan’s report has gained widespread public attention, being viewed more than 150,000 times since it was posted on the website Zenodo, which is operated by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research to promote open scientific data.

Documents posted on the Rule of Law Society’s website last year showed Bannon was the New York-based group’s chairman, The Daily Beast reported.

Neither the Rule of Law Society nor the Rule of Law Foundation appear to have published scientific or medical research before.

Guo, a real-estate tycoon and member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, pledged $100 million to the Rule of Law Society to be led by Bannon. The pair announced the endeavour in 2018 and Bannon told the New York Times that he would take no pay.

The charities’ stated mission is: ‘To expose corruption, obstruction, illegality, brutality, false imprisonment, excessive sentencing, harassment, and inhumanity pervasive in the political, legal, business and financial systems of China.’

Bannon and Guo have also worked together on G News, which publishes anti-Communist Part articles in both English and Chinese, and which has propagated the theory that coronavirus was manufactured in a lab.

The theory was widely reported earlier this year and Trump suggested in late April that he had seen intelligence reports to support the claims.

The claim was also picked up by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, though quickly dropped.

Coronavirus has infected almost 30million people since it emerged late last year, and has killed more than 900,000 (a graph showing the number of new infections worldwide per day)

It has since been revealed that a report suggesting a leak at a lab in Wuhan shortly before the virus emerged, which has been debunked, was circulating in Washington at the time.

A widely-cited and peer-reviewed article published in Nature back in March concluded that ‘the evidence shows [coronavirus] is not a purposefully manipulated virus’ and ‘we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible’.

Scientists currently believe that the novel coronavirus originated in bats, and may have incubated in a second unknown animal before infecting humans.

Researchers still do not know where the first infection occurred, or how the virus jumped from animals into humans.

The first cluster of infection was detected at a seafood market in Wuhan in December last year, though doubt has been cast on whether that was the site of the initial infection.

Australia has led international calls for a full and independent investigation into the origins of the virus, which prompted anger from China.

The World Health Organisation is thought to be in talks with Beijing about setting up an investigation, and what its parameters would be.

Coronavirus has infected almost 30million people worldwide since it was first identified in Wuhan late last year, and killed more than 900,000.

However, these figures are widely thought to be underestimates due to problems with testing and the unknown number of carriers who show no symptoms.

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