The U.S. has been conducting a highly politicized debate about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and attempted to revive the lab leak theory, which was deemed "extremely unlikely" after the investigation led by World Health Organization experts in 2021.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee held the first in a series of public hearings on March 8, focusing on exploring how the pandemic started.
The hearing itself offered "a heavy dose of political theater," according to an article published in Nature website.
The debate was refueled last month, when the Wall Street Journal first reported that the U.S. Energy Department had concluded the pandemic likely arose from a Chinese laboratory leak. The department, undecided previously, made its judgment with "low confidence" in a classified intelligence report, the article said.
"The evidence behind this change is unclear," according to the article. It mentioned that FBI director Christopher Wray also told Fox News that his agency has for some time thought the coronavirus accidentally escaped from a Chinese lab but he "did not reveal any evidence."
Meanwhile, the U.S. National Intelligence Council and four other U.S. agencies still judge that COVID-19 was likely the result of natural transmission, while two are undecided.
An 'unscientific' hearing
At the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing, the Republicans invited three witnesses who supported the lab leak theory. The Democrats invited one witness, who is a clinical director at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
The Republicans focused on accusations that Anthony Fauci, former chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, suppressed the lab leak theory early in the pandemic. Fauci has previously said the evidence suggests the virus most likely originated in nature but that all theories should be investigated.
The Democrats questioned the credibility of witnesses from the Republican side who authored a much-criticized book. The book discussed the biological basis of race, and has been hailed by white supremacists.
According to Nature, Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, said he found the proceedings "shockingly unscientific."
"Not one of those witnesses had any scientific record of investigating and publishing peer-reviewed research on the origins of this virus in quality journals," he said.
A matter of science
China has consistently refuted the lab leak theory and called on the U.S. to stop "politicizing, weaponizing and instrumentalizing COVID origins-tracing," said Mao Ning at a press briefing in March.
"It has let a matter of science be dominated by lawmakers and the intelligence community and spread myths such as the 'lab leak' theory without any evidence to discredit and attack China."
Mao said China has supported and participated in global science-based origins-tracing since day one."The political manipulation by the U.S. is the main stumbling block to the science-based research on COVID origins," she said.
In addition, she urged the U.S. to also share the data of suspected early cases in the country and disclose information about its bio-labs at Fort Detrick.