French intelligence officials reportedly warned in 2004 that building a Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory in Wuhan, China, could lead to a devastating outbreak because of China’s reputation for having poor biosecurity at its labs.
The news comes as most U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
The construction of the lab was a joint agreement between the French and the Chinese and, according to a recent report by France’s Le Figaro newspaper, came at the objection of French intelligence officials.
“The move came despite strong opposition from French diplomatic and security advisers, who argued that the Chinese reputation for poor bio-security could lead to a catastrophic leak,” The Daily Mail reported, citing Le Figaro. “They also warned that Paris could lose control of the project, and even suggested that Beijing could harness the technology to make biowarfare weapons. Eleven years later, as the laboratory prepared to open, the French architects of the project complained that they had, as feared, been ousted by the Chinese communist government.”
The report by Le Figaro highlights how French intelligence officials were concerned about the lab because of China’s issues with “transparency,” an issue that has taken center stage during the coronavirus pandemic as China has repeatedly lied about the pandemic and tried to cover it up in its initial stages.
According to a translation provided by The Daily Mail, a source told the French newspaper that BSL-4 labs are “a bacteriological atomic bomb.” Because “the viruses that are tested are extremely dangerous,” every safety precaution must be followed at all times in order to prevent an outbreak, the source explained. French intelligence officials noted that China’s labs did not “inspire a great deal of trust” because of the extreme safety concerns that existed.
The Washington Post reported last month on other prior warnings from officials concerning the threat posed by the lab:
Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats.
U.S. officials were so alarmed at what they saw at the lab that they sent multiple cables back to Washington warning about safety at the lab and specifically warned about the lab’s work on coronaviruses from bats and the potential for them to cause a pandemic.
One U.S. official told the Post that the cables were a “warning shot” and that they were signs that officials were “begging people to pay attention to what was going on.”
Over the weekend, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, a top vaccine scientist, told The Daily Mail that the possibility that the coronavirus leaked out of a lab was a possibility that could not be ignored.
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