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China directs new research into origins of coronavirus to be 'tightly managed': report

China directs new research into origins of coronavirus to be 'tightly managed': report
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Chinese officials have reportedly announced new limits on academic publications investigating the origins of the coronavirus, according to a since-removed online notice published by two Chinese universities.

The policy imposes new, more stringent vetting on any academic papers on the virus before they can be submitted for publication, with a requirement that a central government official signs off on any studies on its origins, CNN reported.

"Academic papers about tracing the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed," the directive from the Ministry of Education’s science and technology department states.

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Any such papers, the directive states, must, after approval by their university’s academic committee, be sent to the science and technology department, which will pass them on to a task force within the State Council, with universities only cleared to submit the research to journals after approval from the task force.

Chinese researchers have published several studies on the virus in major medical journals since late January, including research into the beginning of human-to-human transmission that increased scrutiny on both Beijing’s handling of the virus outbreak and its official account of it.

"I think it is a coordinated effort from [the] Chinese government to control [the] narrative, and paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China," a Chinese researcher speaking on condition of anonymity told CNN. "And I don't think they will really tolerate any objective study to investigate the origination of this disease."

Some Chinese officials have attempted to push back against the general consensus that the virus originated in a wet market in the city of Wuhan. In March, Zhao Lijian, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, promoted a baseless conspiracy theory, then popular on Chinese social media, that the virus was brought to China by the U.S. military in the 2019 Military World Games.

The Hill has reached out to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment.