A virologist from Hong Kong, who fled to the United States in April when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak, has said that China knew about the deadly infection much before it claimed it did and that her supervisors at her university as well as higher-ups had an obligation to share this information with the world.
In an interview to Fox News on Friday, Li-Meng Yan, who has specialised in virology and immunology at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, said her supervisors ignored her research being carried out when the pandemic had just started that she believes could have saved lives.
"The reason I came to the US is because I deliver the message of the truth of COVID," she told Fox News from an undisclosed location, adding that she "will be disappeared and killed" if she had attempted to tell her story in China.
Yan says she was one of the first scientists in the world to study the coronavirus and was allegedly asked by her supervisor, Dr Leo Poon, last year to look into the cluster of SARS-like cases emerging from mainland China.
The China government refused to let overseas experts, including ones in Hong Kong, do research in China," she said. "So I turned to my friends to get more information."
Yan, who grew up in China, tapped into her network of professional contacts working in medical institutions there. A scientist friend working at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, who knew about the cases, in December allegedly told Yan about human-to-human spread much before China or the World Health Organization (WHO) WHO admitted to the possibility.
When Yan informed her supervisor, "he just nodded", she said, telling her to continue working.
Yan realised her Chinese colleagues soon stopped talking about the virus and would refrain from discussing the issue. "'We cannot talk about it, but we need to wear masks'," Yan recollected them as saying.
As the numbers of human-to-human transmission cases burst, Yan decided to leave Hong Kong, sneaking out in the middle of the night of April 28 to catch a Cathay Pacific flight to the US.
Yan is now in hiding and claims that the Chinese government is trying to tarnish her reputation, accusing “government goons” of setting up a cyber-attack against her in order to keep her quiet. Yan said the Hong Kong government tore apart her apartment in her hometown of Qingdao and also questioned her parents. When she spoke to them, they begged her to come home.
The US has consistently accused China of covering up the beginnings and spread of the pandemic, with President Donald Trump saying Beijing must be held fully accountable for its "secrecy, deception and cover-up" that allowed it to spread the coronavirus all over the world.
Trump has expressed disappointment over China's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past. In May, he claimed that it was the "incompetence" of Beijing that led to the mass killing across the globe.
China has denied the claim of "covering up" the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and has accused the US of attempting to divert public attention by insinuating that the virus originated from a virology laboratory in Wuhan.