The Chinese scientist who first published the coronavirus sequence is protesting after being prevented from entering the laboratory

SHANGHAI (AP) — The first scientist to sequence the COVID-19 virus in China staged a sit-in outside his lab after authorities locked him out of the facility — in a sign that Beijing continues to… Pressure on scientists Conducting research on the Corona virus.

Zhang Yongzhen wrote in an online post on Monday that he and his team were suddenly notified that they would be evacuated from their lab, the latest in a series of setbacks, demotions and ouster since the virologist published the sequence in January 2020 without state approval.

When Zhang tried to go to the laboratory over the weekend, guards prevented him from entering. In protest, he sat outside on flat cardboard in the pouring rain, photos from the scene posted online showed. News of the protest spread widely on Chinese social media, and Zhang told a colleague that he had slept outside the lab, but it was not clear Tuesday whether he stayed there.

“I will not leave, I will not leave, I seek science and truth!” he wrote in a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo that was later deleted.

A prominent scientist in China is protesting being fired from his lab, AP correspondent Charles De Ledesma reports.

In an online statement, the Shanghai Public Health Center said Zhang's laboratory had been renovated and was closed for “safety reasons.” She added that she had provided Zhang's team with alternative laboratory space.

But Zhang wrote online that his team was not offered an alternative until after they were notified of their eviction, and that the laboratory offered did not meet the safety standards to conduct their research, leaving his team in limbo.

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Zhang's latest difficulty reflects how China has sought to control information about the virus: An Associated Press investigation found that The government froze Serious local and international efforts have been made to track it since the first weeks of the outbreak. This pattern continues to this day, with laboratories closed, collaborations shattered, foreign scientists forced out, and Chinese researchers banned from leaving the country.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Zhang said it was “uncomfortable” for him to speak, saying there were other people listening. In an email Monday to collaborator Edward Holmes, which was seen by the AP, Zhang confirmed that he had been sleeping outside his lab after being prevented from doing so by guards. He has access.

An AP reporter was blocked by a guard at the entrance to the complex that houses Zhang's laboratory. A worker at the National Health Commission, China's top health authority, said by phone that it was not the main department responsible and referred questions to the Shanghai government. The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zhang's ordeal began when he and his team decrypted the virus on January 5, 2020, and wrote an internal notice warning Chinese authorities of its potential spread, but did not announce the sequence to the public. The next day, China's top health official ordered Zhang's laboratory to be temporarily closed, and Zhang came under pressure from Chinese authorities.

At that time, China had done so Several dozen people reported They were being treated for a respiratory illness in the central city of Wuhan. Possible cases of the same disease have been reported in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan involving recent travelers to the city.

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Foreign scientists soon learned that Zhang and other Chinese scientists had cracked the virus, and called on China to publish the sequence. Posted by Chang on January 11, 2020, though Lack of government permission.

Determining the virus sequence is fundamental to the development of test kits, disease control measures, and vaccines. The virus eventually spread to every corner of the world, creating a pandemic that disrupted life and commerce, led to widespread lockdowns and killed millions of people.

Zhang later received awards in recognition of his work.

But Zhang's publication of the sequence also led to greater scrutiny in his lab, according to Holmes, Zhang's assistant and a virologist at the University of Sydney. Zhang was removed from his position at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and barred from collaborating with some of his former partners, crippling his research.

“Since he challenged the authorities by releasing the genetic sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19, there has been a campaign against him,” Holmes said. “He was devastated by the process and I'm amazed he was able to function at all.”

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