Top China virologist who conducts risky experiments in Wuhan with bat coronaviruses rejects lab leak theory

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Dr. Shi Zhengli. Credit: Getty Images
Dr. Shi Zhengli. Credit: Getty Images

Shi Zhengli, a top Chinese virologist, is once again at the center of clashing narratives about her research on coronaviruses at a state lab in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first emerged.

[Dr. Shi] now finds herself defending the reputation of her lab and, by extension, that of her country. Reached on her cellphone [recently,] Dr. Shi said at first that she preferred not to speak directly with reporters, citing her institute’s policies. Yet she could barely contain her frustration.

“How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?” she said, her voice rising in anger during the brief, unscheduled conversation. “I don’t know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist,” she wrote in a text message.

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In a rare interview over email, she denounced the suspicions as baseless, including the allegations that several of her colleagues may have been ill before the outbreak emerged.

The speculation boils down to one central question: Did Dr. Shi’s lab hold any source of the new coronavirus before the pandemic erupted? Dr. Shi’s answer is an emphatic no.

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