Saturday, July 09, 2005

China's new rules again

Yesterday's post on China's new laboratory "safety"rules and the potential they have as a tool to exercise control over scientific information has been reinforced by an attempt to discredit this week's Nature article from Hong Kong scientists. That paper suggested the Qinghai virus may have originated in southern China's domestic poultry industry.

In article in the semi-official news wire Xinhuanet, Jia Youling, director general of the Veterinary Bureau of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, was reported to have complained that the Hong Kong scientists had not visited Qinghai and that birds from there do not pass through southern and eastern parts of China. Furthermore, Jia Youling, maintained:
No bird flu has broken out in southern China since this year, and the writers' laboratory lacks the basic conditions for biological safety, he added.

The writers did not apply government approval for carrying out such bird flu virus research, Jia said.
At the time the work reported in the Nature was done no such approval was required. The statement that there has been no bird flu in southern China this year itself lacks credibility. The virus need not have been brought to Qinghai by migrating birds but by someone physically carrying domestic birds from southern China, where poultry is a major industry.

The fear that China's new rules are a naked form of information control unfortunately does have credibility.