China has placed a restriction on the publication of university research on the origins of the new coronavirus.
In notes published and deleted by two Chinese universities, the central government ordered that all university work on the coronavirus go through further verification before being submitted for publication. Studies on the origin of the virus will be further examined and must be approved by central government officials.
The science and technology department of the Ministry of Education said: “University articles on research into the origin of the virus must be strictly and closely managed.”
The new directive is based on instructions issued at a meeting on March 25, held by the Council of State working group on the prevention and control of COVID-19. The document was first published on Friday morning on the website of Fudan University in Shanghai, one of the leading Chinese universities. It was withdrawn after CNN contacted the university.
It would be one of the latest moves by the Chinese government to tighten its grip on the publication of the COVID-19 research, amid previous reports of its ploy to control the narrative about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Chinese researcher who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said the development could hamper important scientific research:
“I think it is a coordinated effort by the Chinese government to control (and) paint the story as if the epidemic did not originate in China. And I don’t think they will really tolerate an objective study to investigate the origin of this disease. “
Before the new directive, Chinese researchers published a series of COVID-19 studies in influential international medical journals. Some of the findings on the first cases of coronavirus, such as when the human-to-human transition first appeared to contradict government official accounts of the epidemic, have led to controversy on Chinese social media.
Since the emergence of the coronavirus in late 2019, more than 100,000 people have died and 1.8 million people have been infected worldwide.