Pompeo looks to Guo for lab clues

Editorial | Mary Ma 11 May 2020

On the surface they appear poles apart, but when it comes to Wuhan lab conspiracy theories, there's a direct line that links the top United States' diplomat Mike Pompeo and Chinese fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui.

And if you think it far-fetched to link the tsunami of hype targeting the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the source of the novel coronavirus that has claimed more than 280,000 lives worldwide to Chinese fugitive-turned web celebrity Guo Wengui, you are probably wrong.

A Hong Kong-based source with knowledge of Washington said such policies could be just crude tactics and the current one singling out a Wuhan laboratory was a typical example.

US President Donald Trump said he had seen evidence, but was not permitted to share it. Secretary of State Pompeo even astonished the world, claiming there wasn't only evidence pointing to the Wuhan Institute of Virology but, in fact, an enormous amount of it.

The problem is that neither has been able to show what they claim to have actually seen.

I am curious to know what kind of intelligence they have been given. The source said a media website run by Guo was probably the primary source of information referred to by the top policymakers.

Guo's outlet touts that a senior official at a Wuhan laboratory had fled to the West, together with family members and a large quantity of documents.

That person was not identified, though it was initially rumored to be Shi Zhengli - nicknamed the Chinese "bat woman" due to her studies on coronavirus found in bats.

Shi subsequently denied in a group chat that she had fled.

Then Guo's friend and former White House strategist Steve Bannon alleged in his own webcast that the Wuhan laboratory official, already in the United States, was more senior than Shi and that the route of escape involved a stop at the US Embassy in Paris.

Not surprisingly, the claims were followed up by other social media outlets including Epoch Times, with some suggesting Congress might hold a closed-door session for the escapee to testify.

The problem with the claim is that, as of yesterday, it is all based rumor - not even Trump's favorite TV station did a follow-up report, let alone other mainstream news organizations which Trump has habitually denounced as "fake news" makers.

It's a pity that Pompeo has not been able to show any of the supposed evidence after claiming to have seen a tremendous amount of it.

It would be an even greater pity if the White House bases its policies on bits and pieces picked up from social media.

Nonetheless, the spinning in Washington is gaining traction among Americans, and the Wuhan lab has become the focus of all pandemic-related discussions. Even those disputing the allegation - including Five Eyes alliance member Australia - were forced to mention the laboratory one way or another.

The truth may take time to surface, but Trump has successfully turned the Wuhan institute into a major suspect - and the political spinning appears to be paying off in his favor at home.

According to US polling company Gallup, Trump's job approval rating increased to 49 percent in late April from 43 percent in mid-April, while disapproval fell to 47 percent from 54 percent during the same period - only the third time during his presidency that he had more approval than disapproval.

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