A newly discovered email from 2013 reveals that the vice-director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Yuan Zhiming, is a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official who was formally in charge of international cooperation and biosafety at the Institute. The institute is suspected to be the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
The email is part of a large number of documents unearthed by transparency group US Right to Know through ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation to uncover pandemic-related information held by US institutions. Although the initial batch of documents was released in June, the email pertaining to Yuan, which was obtained from the Galveston National Laboratory, was only discovered now by former Senate investigator Paul D. Thacker.
While it is not a secret that every Chinese institution ultimately answers to the CCP, the discovery of Yuan’s true role as the CCP’s praetorian and biosafety minder at the Wuhan lab is highly significant.
Yuan’s academic biography does not mention his role as “Secretary of the Party Committee” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Institute’s website does not provide information on the identity of the Secretary of the Party Committee. Publicly available information confirms that as of July 2021, Yuan was still a director at the Institute. Yuan claims to have previously worked at the Pasteur Institute in France, the Royal Danish University of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, the Danish National Institute of Environmental Research, and the University of Illinois. It is not known whether those institutions were aware that Yuan is a CCP official.
Yuan is also associated with James Le Duc, the director of the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas. The Galveston lab was built by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and operates under the auspices of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institutes of Allergy and Health (NIAID).
The connections between the Wuhan lab and Le Duc go back to at least 1986 when Le Duc spent a year working at the Wuhan lab. Le Duc later trained Wuhan lab staff at his Galveston lab.
Le Duc also knew about Yuan’s true role at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, since the 2013 email that exposed it was in response to a request from Le Duc’s staff to the Institute. Le Duc wanted to set up a meeting with “the director of the biocontainment lab.” Notably, the reply, which was sent by a staff member at the Wuhan lab, explained that there were two directors, the nominal director and the “Secretary of the Party Committee.” Like almost all Chinese institutions, the lab had an ostensible director and a CCP praetorian. Le Duc likely knew that the real power was vested with Yuan, whom he subsequently befriended.
On Feb. 9, 2020, a month before the pandemic erupted in the United States, Le Duc emailed his “friend” Yuan to ask for an “Investigation into the possibility that the Covid outbreak was the result of a release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
That email was uncovered by a separate Freedom of Information Act request late last year. Le Duc attached a catalog of questions for Yuan, including asking when the Wuhan lab first started handling coronaviruses and where it had obtained its large collection of viruses.
Most significantly, Le Duc outright asked Yuan whether the Wuhan lab had conducted gain-of-function experiments that may have resulted in the creation of COVID-19.
Le Duc ended his email with an admonition to Yuan: “If there are weaknesses in your program, now is the time to admit them and get them corrected… I trust that you will take my suggestions in the spirit of one friend trying to help another during a very difficult time.”
Despite Le Duc’s decades-long affiliation with the Wuhan lab and his personal friendship with Yuan, he never heard back.
In April 2020, Le Duc contacted EcoHealth adviser David Franz to tell him about his outreach to Yuan, as well as the fact that Yuan had failed to respond.
EcoHealth is the organization through whom Fauci had funded gain-of-function experiments on coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. It is unknown why Le Duc reached out to Franz, nor what Franz’s response was, if any. Franz was previously the commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. The Chinese authorities have accused Fort Detrick of being the true origin of the COVID-19 virus.
At the same time, another former military official, Philip Russell, the former commander of the US Army Medical Research and Development Command—also located at Fort Detrick—sent Le Duc a link to an EpochTV documentary that concluded that the pandemic likely started at the Wuhan Lab. Le Duc replied that he thought the virus came out of the Wuhan Seafood Market but acknowledged that he could not “argue with the comments against the Chinese Communist Party.”
Le Duc went on to state, “It’s too bad that the global pandemic is being conflated with the challenges the world faces from the Chinese Communist Party. They are both important issues, but I’m not convinced that they are linked.”
As we now know—and as Le Duc knew at the time—the link between the Wuhan lab and the CCP was Le Duc’s friend Yuan.
In an apparent effort to deflect Russell’s attention from the evidence of a lab leak, Le Duc praised the lab’s director, Shi Zhengli, claiming that she was a “very talented scientist and a charming person.”
Russell did not fall for the decoy, responding: “I have no doubt that Zheng Li Shi is a brilliant scientist and very charming. That does not rule out the possibility that one of the many bat coronaviruses isolated in the Wuhan lab infected a technician who walked out the door. No need for engineering the virus. The flimsiness of the epidemiology pointing to the wet market, the absence of bats in the market, the failure to identify an intermediate animal host, the extraordinary measures taken by the Chinese government, including persecution and probable killing of two brave physicians, to cover up the outbreak, the steps taken to silence the laboratory personnel, the change in leadership of the lab, all point to the lab as the source of the outbreak.”
At that point, Le Duc replied that it was “certainly possible that a lab accident was the source of the epidemic.” Le Duc also revealed that he had reached out to Yuan about a lab leak but never heard back from him. Le Duc closed by betraying what appears to have been his real objective: “We need to strike a balance such that we are not in an adversarial situation.”
In other words, it appears Le Duc was motivated by a desire not to create a conflict with the CCP. Analogously, NIH head Francis Collins privately told Fauci and his group of scientists to suppress evidence of a lab origin in order to preserve “international harmony.”
There is little doubt that if it had been publicly known in March 2020 that the virus originated at a CCP-affiliated lab, the worldwide pressure on the CCP would have been immense.