While Russia tops the list of one of the most sanctioned countries, China, which is responsible for the long list of crimes listed in this report, is an omission.
Bengaluru: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: “Crime against humanity” means any violent act when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population regardless of its affiliation or identity, with knowledge of the act. In contrast to genocide, crimes against humanity do not need to target a specific group or have an overall specific intent. Under international customary law the prohibition of crimes against humanity has been considered a peremptory norm of international law and is applicable to all States. Collecting deadly wild viruses and then enhancing their ability to infect humans and spread to other humans, in total disregard to safety requirements, in a laboratory located in a crowded city and then suppressing vital information and allowing the virus to spread worldwide resulting in death of over 6 million humans and ruining the global economy qualify as one of the worst crimes against humanity.
WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION: A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is defined as a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or any other weapon that can cause mass casualties, cause extensive damage to artificial or natural structures or the biosphere. Developing bioweapons is explicitly banned by the international community after World War 1 and the ban was reinforced in 1972 and 1993 by further prohibiting their stockpiling and transfer. Indulging in “Gain of Function” research and other such genetic engineering with the express intent of enhancing the evolution and pathogenicity of deadly wild viruses at Wuhan and other laboratories should definitely be classified as producing a weapon of mass destruction. Advances in genetic engineering have enabled production of deadly pathogens and toxins in small laboratories with easily available gene synthesisers and other equipment in various locations without any regulation or oversight. Recent Russian claims of seizing documents about such activities in Ukraine and US government’s Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland’s admission before a Senate Foreign Relation Committee that the United States was working with Ukraine to prevent invading Russian forces from seizing biological research material are cause for grave concern.
CRIMINAL MISAPPROPRIATION AND BREACH OF TRUST: Misappropriation is the unauthorized, improper, or unlawful use of funds or other facilities for purposes other than that for which intended. Diverting funds meant for vaccine or other health related research from national and publicly funded health institutions to uses other than what the money was lent for is a criminal offence, misappropriation of funds and breach of trust. Chinese researchers and sponsoring US health agencies have admitted funding collection of deadly wild viruses, Gain of Function research and development of Chimera viruses banned in the US in Chinese laboratories in the guise of developing future proof vaccines as detailed in my earlier articles in The Sunday Guardian. This is exemplified by the efforts of Dr Peter Daszak president of EcoHealth alliance of the US to finance and hide under the cover of a public health threat such research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
HAZARDOUS FACILITIES IN DENSELY POPULATED AREAS: Hazardous facilities should be designed, located, developed and managed, ensuring safety of communities and biosphere. Ignoring such basic tenets and having facilities like the Union Carbide factory in a heavily populated city like Bhopal or Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is sheer callousness bordering on insanity and a disaster in the making. Hazardous facilities should not be located in areas susceptible to natural hazards to avoid Fukushima Daiichi kind of disaster. Inability to plan and deal with accidental spills or the release of hazardous substances compounds the crime.
THEFT OF DATA THROUGH FAKE COMPANIES; SAMPLES BY SPY RESEARCHERS: In May last year, a federal grand jury in San Diego, California, indicted four Chinese nationals with “hacking into the computer systems of companies, universities and government entities in the United States and abroad between 2011 and 2018… including information on infectious diseases, vaccines and biopharmaceuticals. The defendants and their Hainan State Security Department (HSSD) conspirators sought to obfuscate the Chinese government’s role in such theft by establishing a front company, Hainan Xiandun Technology Development Co., Ltd., since disbanded, to operate out of Haikou, Hainan Province.” Chinese military virologists stole dangerous viruses collected from wild animals from National Microbiology Laboratory, in Winnipeg, Canada while posing as co-researchers.
CLANDESTINE ACTIVITIES: Data of the extensive Chinese collection of viruses in China and clandestinely abroad were hidden offline or withdrawn from international databases. Even data about the Mojiang Miners affected by Covid-19 like lethal pneumonia was collected but suppressed and misrepresented as a fungal infection.
MISINFORMATION AND FAILURE OF CONTAINMENT: WHO’s International Health Regulations and transnational public health law prescribe transnational containment measures to protect global health. Public health interventions include early health-alert warning about any communicable disease outbreak, entry or exit screening, reporting, notices, collection and dissemination of passenger information, travel advisories or restrictions, and physical examination or management of sick or exposed individuals. At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China not only failed to provide an early alert, it denied human to human transmission, and permitted international flights out of Wuhan while blocking all domestic travel in and out of Wuhan. Such unethical behaviour is totally unacceptable.
TAMPERING WITH EVIDENCE: It is a criminal offence to alter, conceal, falsify, or destroy evidence with the intent to interfere with an investigation. Soon after the outbreak in Wuhan the wet market was barricaded on 1 January 2020, cleaned up of any possible evidence for or against Covid-19 having originated there. The Wuhan Institute of Virology meanwhile withdrew its data from international databases and destroyed any incriminating evidence in the institute.
WITNESS TAMPERING: Attempting to improperly influence, alter or prevent the testimony of witnesses within criminal or civil proceedings is a criminal offence. Chinese police punished Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old doctor after he warned about the virus on WeChat in late December 2019. On 7 February 2021, Li died of Covid-19. All doctors, researchers, journalists, activists were suppressed to prevent the true details of the origins of the virus and its spread.
MISLEADING THE INVESTIGATION: Intentionally giving or fabricating false evidence in any investigation or judicial proceeding, is a criminal offence. WHO was allowed to visit Wuhan to investigate the Covid-19 outbreak only after all evidence was destroyed. The team approved by China was headed by and included many compromised individuals with conflict of interest and was a joint mission with the Chinese, who took the team on a guided tour and prevented any in depth thorough investigation.
CORRUPTING AND INFLUENCING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE: Dubious preprints, letters to editor and biased research reports in reputed scientific journals like Lancet and Nature by Chinese researchers and their international collaborators have misled world opinion. Every attempt to probe the origins of Covid-19 has been dubbed as a conspiracy against China and virus researchers and vilified. Subsequent loss of trust in scientific publications, researchers, health authorities led to vaccine resistance and protests against Covid appropriate restrictions and mandates. Causing civil disorder and law and order problems is criminal in any society.
HOARDING AND PROFITEERING: Early in this pandemic, China imported and hoarded masks, PPE kits, testing kits, medicines and essential medical supplies and later profiteered from the shortage of these supplies. Inspired by this many such shortages including of vaccines were created and exploited by greedy elements in many parts of the world. Hoarding essential supplies, producing an artificial shortage and profiteering from human misery during a deadly pandemic is a most despicable crime.
PUNISHMENT: Before World Wars, colonial powers and emperors could get away with any crime and there was no redressal for the victims. After the World Wars the United Nations was set up in 1945 by 51 countries “committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.” The United Nations has been powerless against the might of veto wielding Permanent Members of the Security Council. Many invasions against the sovereignty and integrity of nations, genocides and crimes against humanity have gone unpunished when powerful and influential persons or nations are involved. Less powerful nations get bombed to Stone Age when suspected of acquiring weapons of mass destruction or sanctioned for attempts at self-preservation and stopping genocide in a neighbouring nation and isolated from the world for human rights abuses like apartheid or being communist or ruled by a despot. The US decides unilaterally or with its allies or with the United Nations as to who is to be sanctioned and Russia tops the list at present. China, the nation responsible for the long list of crimes mentioned above, is a surprising omission from the list of most banned nations. Its big economy and market and its dominance of global supply chains make it indispensable to the United States and many other nations. China has also been spared due to the need to shield US health authorities, researchers and defence from an international investigation into the origins of this virus and other bioweapons. Hence China has till now escaped sanctions, payments of reparations, diplomatic, cultural and sports isolation or any consequences for the pandemic, human rights abuses, threats to the integrity of its neighbours and illegal maritime claims.
Dr P.S. Venkatesh Rao is Consultant Endocrine, Breast & Laparoscopic Surgeon at Bengaluru.