HKU academic says nothing to add on virus coverup accusation

Local | 12 Jul 2020 3:36 pm

The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Hong Kong University, Gabriel Leung, on Sunday said he didn’t know a purported whistleblower who has claimed that top researchers at the school failed to act on early information that the coronavirus could spread between people and tried to suppress her research, RTHK reports.

Speaking on a radio program, Leung said he didn’t have anything to add to a university statement on the claims made by Dr Li-meng Yan, but urged people to read the HKU release carefully.

In an interview with Fox News, Yan – a virologist who had worked at HKU’s School of Public Health – said her supervisors, renowned experts in the field, ignored research she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she believes could have saved lives.

She also believes the mainland government knew about the novel coronavirus well before it claimed it did.

Yan said her former superviser Leo Poon, had asked her late in December 2019 to investigate the cluster of Sars-like cases coming out of the mainland.

She quickly found out through a friend – a scientist at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in China – on December 31 that the virus may be being passed between people – well before China or the WHO said human-to-human transmission was possible.

Yan said Poon initially told her to keep working, but later instructed her to “keep silent, and be careful” when she wanted to report more findings to him on January 16.

She also alleged that her boss had told her not to touch the ‘red line’.

She also claimed that the co-director of the university's WHO-affiliated lab, Professor Malik Peiris, knew the matter but didn't do anything about it.

Yan told Fox News she boarded a Cathay Pacific flight on April 28 to the United States, to "deliver the message of the truth of Covid".

HKU confirmed in a statement issued on Saturday that Yan was a post-doctoral fellow and former staff member who has now left the university.

But it said the content of the Fox News report "does not accord with the key facts as we understand them."

"Specifically, Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at HKU during December 2019 and January 2020, her central assertion of the said interview," the statement said.

The university also said it observed that some of Yan’s allegations have no scientific basis, but resembles hearsay.

It said the school does not act on hearsay and will not further comment on this matter.

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