Did China manipulate the coronavirus to make it more dangerous?

UPDATE: July 6, 2020. See,

1) Deborah Hayes, “Coronavirus: Former MI6 boss says theory COVID-19 came from Wuhan lab must not be dismissed as conspiracy;The intervention comes as a team of scientists from the WHO flies to China this week to investigate the origin of the disease,” Sky News, July 6, 2020 (06:01 h).

2) Aksel Fridstrøm, “The fight for a controversial article; Birger Sørensen and Angus Dalgleish failed to get an article about the origins of the coronavirus published in a scientific journal. The authors suspect foul play and political considerations. Not everything gets published, is the answer from the journals. Minerva has obtained a draft of the paper, to let readers and researchers decide,” NYHETSREDAKTØR, 13.juli 2020 (16:45 SIST OPPDATERT Mandag 13. juli 2020 – 20:10), reprinted in MINERVA, https://www.minervanett.no/angus-dalgleish-birger-sorensen-coronavirus/the-fight-for-a-controversial-article/362519.

3) The rejected article is found here.

4) redactie, “Onderzoeker Sørensen 90 procent zeker dat coronavirus uit lab komt,” Duurzaam Nieews (Netherlands), redactie op 12 juli 2020,

Former MI6 head says China inserted genetic code in Wuhan lab to make coronavirus more dangerous


(1) Andy Gregory, “Coronavirus: Former MI6 head claims pandemic ‘started as accident’ in Chinese laboratory; Sir Richard Dearlove cites study by researchers claiming to have found ‘inserted’ elements in virus,” The Independent, June 4, 2020 (01:15 h).

(2) Sophie Tanno, “Ex-head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove says coronavirus ‘is man-made’ and was ‘released by accident’; after seeing ‘important’ scientific report Ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove said he believes that Covid-19 is man-made; He cited an ‘important’ report which claims virus was manufactured in a lab; Believes China could be forced to pay ‘reparations’ to the rest of the world, Daily Mail, June 4, 2020 (20:56 EDT, 3 June 2020, updated 04:14 EDT, 4 June 2020).

Gregory’s report is based on an article published in The Telegraph which in turn is based on an interview with Sir Richard Dearlove in its Podcast, Planet Normal. While the Telegraph article is behind a paywall, the podcast can be found on the same page before hitting the paywall.


Bill Gardner. “Exclusive: Coronavirus began ‘as an accident’ in Chinese lab, says former MI6 boss; Sir Richard Dearlove tells Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast that new scientific report suggests key elements of the virus were ‘inserted’,” The Telegraph, June 3, 2020 (9:17pm).

Gregory writes in The Independent:

A former head of MI6 has said he believes the coronavirus pandemic may have “started as an accident”, with the virus escaping from a Chinese laboratory.

Sir Richard Dearlove cited an “important” new study by British and Norwegian researchers which he thinks could “shift the debate”.

The researchers claim to have discovered clues suggesting key elements were “inserted” into the virus’s genetic sequence and may not have evolved naturally, The Telegraph reports — but the published study does not appear to indicate that the inserts are man-made.

The researchers are still seeking a publisher for a new paper, which The Telegraph reports says Covid-19 is a “remarkably well-adapted virus for human co-existence”, and claims it is likely to be the result of a laboratory experiment to produce “chimeric viruses of high potency”.

A Chimeric virus, according to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English (2020) has a specific meaning related to virology, and a general one.

The specific meaning is: “Genetics: an organism composed of two or more genetically distinct tissues, as an organism that is partly male and partly female, or an artificially produced individual having tissues of several species.”

The general meaning reveals the horror of the “accident” in Wuhan which Sir Richard suggests may have occurred:


(often cap.)  Mythology: a mythological, fire-breathing monster commonly represented with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.\;
“any similarly grotesque monster having disparate parts, esp. as depicted in decorative art.
“a horrible or unreal creature of the imagination.”

Quoting Sir Richard, Gregory reports further,

Sir Richard, who was head of MI6 until 2004, suggested that scientists may have been carrying out gene-splicing experiments — although “absolutely” rejected conspiracy theories that this may have been for malevolent purposes.

He added: ”It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations?” I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.”

No scientists studying Covid-19’s genetic makeup have reported signs it was manipulated, except reportedly those he cites — Professor Angus Dalgleish, of St George’s at the University of London, and Norwegian virologist Birger Sorensen.

Tanno, in The Daily Mail, reports one other, all-important, aspect:

The research claimed that current efforts to find a vaccine would prove unsuccessful as scientists have so far misunderstood the true properties of Covid-19. (emphasis added)

For a comprehensive analysis of what was going on at research laboratories in Wuhan, see

Milton Leitenberg, “Did the SARS-CoV-2 virus arise from a bat coronavirus research program in a Chinese laboratory? Very possibly,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 4, 2020.

After an exhaustive review of the evidence, Leitenberg concludes,

Overall, the data indicates that SARS-CoV-2 is uniquely adapted to infect humans, raising important questions as to whether it arose in nature by a rare chance event or whether its origins might lie elsewhere.

This is a developing story of enormous importance.

The Urgent Need for a Robust International Bio-Defense Convention and Regime

However, whatever the facts regarding experimentation with the virus and its release, the possibility that the hypothesis of Chinese manipulated of the gene may be true raises the specter of the possibility that a country like China could, at some point in the future, develop a modified virus that would take down foreign populations such as those in Europe, Africa, and Latin America, while not affecting its own population. Such a weapon, if ever developed, could dramatically change the distribution of power and wealth in the world.

Given such a possibility, which advances in science may be bringing closer, there is an imperious need for the nations of the world to develop a robust convention and set of institutions which might minimize the threat of such a development. At a minimum, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention must  be greatly strengthened, and a much more robust institutional regime established.

For such a regime to be developed, the United States would need to sharply reverse its current course of opposition to international agreements and institutions. It is ironic that, just as such a potential threat emerges, the U.S. is in the process of withdrawing from one of the last important arms control treaties: the Open Skies agreement. This follows U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement, and what is likely to be its refusal to renew the START nuclear arms control treaty with Russia.

It is time to wake up from the illusion that the United States can go its own way on  foreign policy and achieve the outcomes it wants by playing “hardball” with other countries. Many of the most challenging problems can only be addressed by effective collective action, through the use of international law and institutions.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.