By Kate Schneider

A top Chinese spy has reportedly defected to the US and offered up intelligence about how the covid pandemic began.

Vice Minister of State Security Dong Jingwei is believed to have secretly flown from Hong Kong to the US on February 10, according to reports that have surfaced on Chinese media sites and Twitter.

He travelled alongside his daughter Dong Yang, outlet Spy Talk reported.

Rumours are swirling that Mr Jingwei has passed on important information about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, at the centre of the covid lab leak theory which had been dismissed as a “conspiracy” by many for the last year-and-a-half but is now being reignited.

If the rumours are true, Mr Jingwei would be the highest-level defector ever from the People’s Republic of China.

His evidence may have even sparked US President Joe Biden’s U-turn on the country’s covid probe. Mr Biden announced in late May a new review into the origins of covid, after having shut down a previous probe.

He has now called on the US intelligence community to “redouble” its investigation to find out whether covid jumped from an animal host to humans, or if it was accidentally released from the Wuhan research lab.

Mr Jingwei served as a prestigious counterintelligence head of China’s Ministry of State Security, otherwise known as the Guoanbu. His intelligence is reported to include early pathogenic studies of the virus, models of predicted covid spread and damage to the world, and financial records detailing which organisations and governments funded the research.

He may also have information about the names of Chinese spies working in the US, and how the Chinese government gained access to a CIA communications system.

Former Chinese foreign ministry official Dr Han Lianchao, who defected after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, wrote in a tweet this week that if true, Mr Jingwei’s defection “is really a big bomb”.

He also reportedly shared a photo of Mr Jingwei, claiming he was last seen in public in September 2020. The photo has since been removed from Chinese search engine Baidu.

With tensions growing between the US and China, some false rumours have recently surfaced about defectors, including a bogus claim covid scientist Shi Zhengli had swapped sides.

Also adding to the intrigue are reports from China that Mr Jingwei hosted a national security meeting on June 18 aimed at catching “spies and traitors”. However, a convincing photo of him at the meeting has not yet surfaced, sparking disbelief that he ever attended the event.

The local reports have actually fired up the rumour mill even more, with a photo from the alleged security meeting showing a man who many believe is not actually My Jingwei.

Top Chinese spy catcher Dong Jingwei warns agents to look out for those who collude with foreign forces— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) June 18, 2021

“That is not a picture of Dong Jingwei,” one Twitter user wrote.

“If #DongJingwei has not defected, why won’t Beijing show him off in public?” another commented.

“Since nobody, not even the MSS head of counterintelligence, can be in two places (much less two continents) at the same time … somebody’s lying,” a third said. “Where’s #DongJingwei today?

The P4 laboratory (centre left) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan. Picture: AFP

The P4 laboratory (centre left) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

‘China needs to be transparent’

It comes as the head of the World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus refused to rule out the Wuhan lab leak theory at the G7 summit, and called on China to be more “transparent”.

Dr Tedros said that so far 3.75 million people worldwide had died from the virus and at least 174 million were confirmed to have contracted the disease.

“I think the respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is so that we can prevent it from happening again,” he said.

Dr Tedros also suggested there had not been enough “transparency and co-operation” from China initially.

Medical staff members working at an exhibition centre converted into a hospital in Wuhan. Picture: AFP

Medical staff members working at an exhibition centre converted into a hospital in Wuhan. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

‘This must never happen again’

Speaking on the ABC’s Insidersprogram this morning, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne declined to comment on the reported defection, instead she also called for China to be transparent.

“I wouldn’t normally comment on intelligence matters of that nature, but what is very important here is that we do maintain the momentum of this inquiry process,” she said.

“We know that the phase one inquiry had significant limitations in terms of the delay in deploying it, access to information, access to appropriate scientific and medical evidence.

“So we are very determined to work with our partners to ensure that the phase two investigation is able to access the material that it needs, including within China. That is strongly supported by the G7 itself.

“The most important thing here … absolutely is that this never ever happens again,” she continued. “They are strongly encouraged by many parties … to enable this to be a very clear and comprehensive process.”

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