Bat woman scientist denies she’s fled China
Published by The Mail on Sunday (3rd May, 2020)
A famous Chinese scientist known for her controversial work on bat-borne viruses has denied claims circulating on social media that she has defected to Europe with a secret dossier about the outbreak.
Global Times, a state-owned tabloid paper in Beijing, reported that virologist Shi Zhengli – known as Bat Woman after leading bat-hunting expeditions in dank caves – had rejected rumours of ‘defecting with intelligence files’.
The paper, a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, said she posted a denial on the social media site WeChat. ‘No matter how difficult things are, it [defecting] shall never happen,’ the paper reported her saying.
‘We’ve done nothing wrong. With strong belief in science, we will see the day when the clouds disperse and the sun shines.’ The rumours on social media alleged Shi had smuggled her family along with hundreds of confidential papers out of the country and was asking for sanctuary in the United States embassy in Paris.
The scientist, who works at Wuhan Institute of Virology, played a key role in linking both this novel coronavirus and the 2002 Sars epidemic to bats in southern China. But her work has been at the centre of suggestions the pandemic may be linked to the laboratory.
Two months ago, Shi went on WeChat to state: ‘I promise with my life that the virus has nothing to do with the lab’ after Indian scientists said the virus possibly originated in the high security Wuhan bio-laboratory.
She said the outbreak was ‘a punishment by nature to humans’ unsanitary life styles’. The virologist has also revealed she will be leading a major Chinese project to sample more viruses in bat caves.
‘The mission must go on,’ she told Scientific American magazine. ‘What we have uncovered is just the tip of an iceberg.’
She previously told the respected journal of being summoned back to Wuhan to investigate the emerging virus and her relief that its genome sequences did not match virus samples in the lab.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last month that her unravelling of the new diseases’s genetic composition – crucial for developing diagnostic tests and vaccines – was muzzled, fuelling the growing concerns over Chinese cover-ups.