China had made clear its biological weapons ambitions long before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Wenstrup together with Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) released a report (pdf) on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic on Dec. 14.
“Our State Department has put things out over the past, even going back to 2005, that China is interested in offensive bioweapons,” Wenstrup told the “Capitol Report” program on NTD, the sister media outlet of the Epoch Times, on Dec. 16.
The lawmaker singled out the work of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s Fifth Institute of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS), the military’s top medical research body.
“In 2005, the U.S. State Department publicly stated the U.S. assessment that China also operates an offensive biological weapons program, specifically identifying two Chinese entities as likely involved, one of which is the Fifth Institute. In a 2006 declaration of compliance with the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, China acknowledged that the Fifth Institute specifically conducts research on SARS coronaviruses,” the report reads.
Wenstrup also took note of the book titled “The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Artificial Humanized Viruses as Genetic Weapons,” released by AMMS in 2015.
“The book described how to create weaponized chimeric SARS coronaviruses, the potentially broader scope for their use compared to traditional bioweapons, and the benefits of being able to plausibly deny that such chimeric coronaviruses were artificially created rather than naturally occurring,” the report states.
The congressman, who is also a medical doctor, said that the military research institute had also collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the body at the center of the lab leak theory of the pandemic origins.
Wenstrup said there were “published articleswith scientists from the Fifth Institute, as well as the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) … combining their military with their other areas of research.”
He further pointed to a scientist with the PLA’s Fifth Institute, General Zhou Yusen, who had reportedly worked with the WIV for years prior to the pandemic.
According to Wenstrup, Zhou was “heavy into the gain of function type research or chimeric research.”
“Notably, in the spring of 2020, as global COVID-19 cases surpassed 7 million and COVID-19 deaths surpassed 400,000, General Zhou reportedly died under mysterious circumstances,” according to the GOP report.
Challenging the Intelligence Community
The lawmaker noted that an update to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)’s declassified assessment (pdf) of the origins of COVID-19 released in October 2021 did not address important information that indicates the Chinese regime’s interest in offensive bioweapons.
“The declassified updated assessment also failed to address the AMMS’ publicly stated interest in the development of engineered coronaviruses for biological weapons purposes,” the GOP report states.
“The IC [intelligence community] should be transparent regarding what it does or does not know regarding the relationship between the PLA’s Fifth Institute of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS), which China has publicly admitted conducts bioweapons research and coronavirus experiments, and the WI,” the report continues.
Wenstrup specifically pointed to Zhou’s death under questionable circumstances, saying “We want to know what the intelligence community knows about his work, and also about his untimely death and the circumstances around that.”
Lack of Cooperation
The lawmaker highlighted that China has consistently failed to cooperate with investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
“When they finally did let people come to China, they really didn’t let them into the lab and to see everything. As a matter of fact, they [investigation group] had to be held in quarantine for one or two weeks before they even got to have a conversation,” he said, referring to a team of World Health Organization-recruited scientists who visited China in early 2021 to probe the pandemic origins.
“And interestingly, the only person they would allow from America was a gentleman named Peter Daszak, who was with EcoHealth Alliance, who was getting NIH [National Institutes of Health] funding, and then working with the Chinese on coronavirus type of research,” he added.
Daszak is the president of EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit that has drawn considerable scrutiny over funneling federal funding to the WIV for research on coronaviruses, which some experts say amounted to gain-of-function research.
Given the history of collaboration between Daszak and WIV, Wenstrup said there was potential for bias.
Wenstrup said that the committee would continue to probe the pandemic origins, especially after the Republicans take the gavel in the new year.
“We hope to move forward from here and bring people forward that have been involved with [the Wuhan] Institute of Virology, and any other people that have done this type of science and get their opinions and get knowledge,” he said.
“These are always the concerns when it comes to weapons. So we need to continue to delve in that direction. And as the Intelligence Committee, we have the responsibility of oversight and to be aware of the national security threats that may be out there,” he added.
It’s important to get to the bottom of this question so as to prevent future pandemics from emerging, the congressman said.
“As a physician, I can tell you this is important because we have to know about lab security around the world and for our own sake; we also have to do more to make sure that we are prepared if something like this should ever happen again,” he said.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Eco Health Alliance and and ODNI for comments.
Hannah Ng is a reporter covering U.S. and China news. She holds a master’s degree in international and development economics from the University of Applied Science Berlin.
Steve Lance is the host of Capitol Report, a political news show based in Washington aimed at providing a direct channel to the voices and people who shape policy in America. Capitol Report features all of the political news of the day with expert interviews and analysis.