Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to declassify official documents that could show whether the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), the top Republican on the committee, submitted a letter with two other GOP committee members to Blinken on Thursday. The lawmakers seek records about a State Department assessment that the Chinese military worked on “secret projects” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab located near where the first cases of coronavirus emerged in late 2019.
The debate over the origins of the coronavirus has proved a hot-button geopolitical issue. Chinese authorities insist that the virus spread to humans naturally from an animal species, a claim the World Health Organization endorsed in March. But a growing number of scientists, journalists, and government officials have questioned China’s claim, citing a lack of transparency from Chinese officials regarding the origins of the virus.
The State Department released a fact sheet on Jan. 15 that said the Wuhan lab has conducted classified experiments on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017. Some of those experiments involved animals. The WHO said in March that it is highly unlikely the virus originated from a lab leak.
But Chinese authorities refused to grant WHO investigators full access to data about early cases of the virus. Peter Daszak, an American scientist on the WHO team, told 60 Minutes that Chinese government officials oversaw all of their interviews with scientists from the Wuhan lab.
The Biden administration has also cast doubt on China’s claims and called on Beijing to cooperate with outside investigators.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” Blinken said last month. “We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened, in order to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again.”