A Hong Kong-based virologist has claimed that China knew about the deadly novel coronavirus well before it claimed it did. In an interview to US-based Fox News published on Friday, Dr Li-Meng Yan, who has specialised in virology and immunology at Hong Kong School of Public Health, claimed Chinese authorities knew about the deadly virus in December last year, but hushed it up.
She said that China likely had an obligation to tell the world, given their status as a World Health Organisation (WHO) reference laboratory specialising in influenza viruses and pandemics, especially as the virus began spreading in the early days of 2020.
She added that her supervisors, renowned as some of the top experts in the field, also ignored research she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she believes could have saved lives.
Yan, who said she was one of the first scientists in the world to study COVID-19, was allegedly asked by her supervisor at the University/WHO reference lab, Dr Leo Poon, last year to look into the odd cluster of SARS-like cases coming out of mainland China at the end of December 2019.
"The Chinese government refused to let overseas experts, including ones in Hong Kong to do research in China," she said. Yan said very soon she and her colleagues across China discussed the peculiar virus but that she soon noted a sharp shift in tone. Doctors and researchers who had been openly discussing the virus suddenly clammed up. Those from the city of Wuhan--which later would become the hub of the outbreak -- went silent and others were warned not to ask them details.
The doctors said, ominously, "We cannot talk about it, but we need to wear masks,'" Yan said. The numbers of human-to-human transmission cases then began to grow exponentially, according to her sources.
Yan made the decision to leave. She packed her bags, sneaked past the censors and video cameras on campus, and boarded a Cathay Pacific flight to the United States, on April 28. She had her passport and her purse and was about to leave all of her loved ones behind. If she was caught, she knew she could be thrown in jail -- or, worse, rendered one of the "disappeared".
Yan believes her life is still in danger. She fears she can never go back to her home and lives with the hard truth that she will likely never see her friends or family there again. Still, she said, the risk is worth it. "The reason I came to the US is because I deliver the message of the truth of COVID," she told Fox News from an undisclosed location. She added that if she tried to tell her story in China, she "will be disappeared and Killed".
Yan, now in hiding, claims that the government in the country where she was born is trying to shred her reputation and accuses
"government goons" of choreographing a cyber-attack against her in hopes of keeping her quiet.
She divulged to the media that the Hong Kong government swarmed her hometown of Qingdao and that agents ripped apart her tiny apartment and questioned her parents. When she contacted her parents, they pleaded with her to come home, and told her that she did not know what she was talking about, and begged her to give up the fight.
Meanwhile, the University of Hong Kong has also taken down her page and apparently revoked access to her online portals and e-mails, even after she says that she was on an approved annual leave.
In a statement to Fox News, a school spokesperson said that Yan is not currently an employee.