The spymaster’s rumoured defection reignited unfounded theories that Covid started as a lab leak (Picture: Getty)
A Chinese spymaster is rumoured to have defected to the US so he can spill secrets about the origins of Covid.
Dong Jingwei, 57, deputy minister of state security, reportedly flew from Hong Kong to the States with his daughter Dong Yang on February 10.
The rumours surfaced in Chinese media reports and Twitter posts examined by SpyTalk, a site run by investigative reporters specialising in intelligence.
It was claimed the counterintelligence chief had evidence the pandemic started when the coronavirus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan, where the first major outbreak was detected, rather than transmitted from animals.
SpyTalk deemed the reports to be ‘unfounded’ but said the defection theory was boosted by a sketchy account of Mr Dong supposedly appearing at a seminar.
Less than 24 hours after the rumours were reported, he was quoted in an article by South China Morning Post, a state-sanctioned newspaper based in Hong Kong, saying spycatchers need to ‘step up their efforts’.
The article sourced its report to a wing of the Communist Party of China which commands law enforcement, and did not include a picture of Mr Dong at the seminar or say where it took place.
Dr Han Lianchao, a former Chinese foreign ministry official who defected after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, said the lack of photos was suspicious as Beijing has not been shy about publicising Mr Dong’s appearances before.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology says its secrecy is necessary for national security reasons (Picture: AFP)
‘There’s no excuse for not posting a recent photo of Dong to refute the rumor,’ argued Dr Han, who has previously said the spymaster ‘was last seen in public in September 2020’.
Former Pentagon, State Department and CIA China expert Nicholas Eftimiades told SpyTalk it’s telling that ‘Beijing has made no flat denial and hasn’t produced Dong publicly.
‘So there is no clear indication of what’s happening.’
The Wuhan lab leak theory was fuelled by details of its secrecy and past research on bat coronaviruses but has so far been based on speculation.
An international team of investigators led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Chinese experts concluded it was ‘extremely unlikely’ in February 2021.
However scientists, politicians and WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus have called for further investigations.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.