The Chinese government has been censoring research on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, American weekly news magazine Newsweek reported on Sunday.
According to the Newsweek, a cached version of one the pages of Wuhan-based China University of Geosciences' website indicates regulations have been updated so that all studies would require the approval of China's Ministry of Science and Technology before publication.
"Academic papers on the traceability of the new coronavirus must be reviewed by the academic committee of the school before publication, focusing on the authenticity of the paper and whether it is suitable for publication," the regulations reportedly stated.
"After the review is passed, the school reports to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which can only be published after the review by the Ministry of Science and Technology."
Back in February, The New York Times published a video showing anonymous Chinese citizens addressing Western media about local censorship. According to the Times, Chinese authorities were censoring reports concerning the outbreak and that research into SARS-CoV-2 was being censored and removed from the internet.
"My purpose is to make sure that all of the information is not lost or deleted," one of the anonymous citizens who spoke to the Times said. "We do not know what information, and when, the authorities will censor," said another anonymous source, adding that locals are "trying to be faster than the authorities."
According to a mid-March report from The Guardian, unpublished Chinese government data recorded the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the republic as early as November 17—nearly two months before officials announced they had identified the virus, on January 7.
On Thursday, ABC News reported that as early as late November, the US military's National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) had warned various policy-makers and government officials, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's Joint Staff and the White House, of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to ABC, the information regarding the outbreak of the virus—which was reported by NCMI to have gone out of control—appeared in US President Donald Trump's daily brief of intelligence matters in early January.
Analyses were reportedly circulating through confidential channels within the US government around Thanksgiving, raising alarms that China's leadership knew the outbreak had spiraled out of control, keeping the information from health agencies and foreign governments.
"The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing," the source cited by ABC said of the early reports from Wuhan. "But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on."
On January 3, Chinese police detained Wuhan Central Hospital physician Li Wenliang for "spreading false rumors," after the man warned his colleagues about an outbreak of a severe respiratory illness in the city back in December. Wenliang, who became known as the "coronavirus whistleblower," succumbed to the disease on February 7.