In March 2020 the UK Government admitted to me that they had made no assessment of the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Unlike brave doctors and journalists who paid the price for doing so.

May 28, 2021 | Featured

Times May 28th 2021
In March 2020 the UK Government admitted to me that they had made no assessment of the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Unlike brave doctors and journalists who paid the price for doing so.

Lord Alton of LiverpoolCrossbench

March 10 -2020

Lord Alton of Liverpool To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the (1) number, and (2) location, of microbiology laboratories in China that handle advanced viruses such as the Wuhan coronavirus; and what assessment they have made of the role any such laboratories may have had in the initial spread of the Wuhan coronavirus

Minister’s reply:
Lord BethellThe Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

We do not hold this information.

March 20th 2020

Lord Alton of LiverpoolCrossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reported arrest and disappearance of (1) Fang Bin, (2) Chen Qiushi, and (3) Li Zehua, who had been live-streaming updates from Wuhan on the COVID-19 outbreak.

Minister’s reply

Lord Ahmad of WimbledonMinister of State, The Minister of State, Department for International Development

These reports are concerning and we are following the situation closely. We have publicly raised our concerns about the lack of due process and judicial transparency in China, including in the most recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights and Democracy report.

Li Wenliang

Extracts follow from a speech in Parliament by Lord Alton on March 19 2020 Full text at

Lord Alton of Liverpool: “…..Initially, the Chinese Government delayed announcing the discovery of the virus and silenced those who sought to warn the world of what was unfolding, suppressing information rather than the virus. Every moment lost has set back the time required time to develop a vaccine.

“One of the great heroes to emerge from this crisis is the ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang, who was forced to recant by the Communist authorities, and subsequently died, along with three other doctors, at his hospital in Wuhan, where he was ministering to his patients.

“Last week, in an interview with the Chinese magazine Renwu, meaning “people”, Ai Fen, director of the emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital, said that she too was reprimanded after alerting her superiors and colleagues of a SARS-like virus seen in patients in December. She said:

“If I had known what was to happen, I would not have cared about the reprimand. I would have … talked about it to whoever, where ever I could”.

“In a move demonstrating all the hallmarks of a dictatorship, the interview has been removed from the magazine and deleted from social media sites.

“You could argue that this virus of concealment—silencing of opinion or dissent, and the crushing of doctors trying to save lives—is a far more deadly disease than coronavirus itself. When this is over, as I hope it will be, China should reflect on a lethal system and an ideology which has brought enormous suffering on the world.

“It is little wonder that the people of Hong Kong fear for their future, not because of Covid-19 but because of the accelerated and worrying attempts to disembowel their fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and the liberties which they have long enjoyed under “one country, two systems”. Anyone who doubts the nature of this ideology should read Julia Lovell’s spellbinding book, Maoism: A Global History.

“”…..Despite the coronavirus enforcing a hiatus on the large-scale democracy protests that we saw in Hong Kong last year, the Chief Executive continues to use archaic public order laws to detain political activists on politically motivated charges. This includes the recent arrest of Jimmy Lai, the most prominent pro-democracy newspaper owner in Hong Kong, and the former democratic lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum. These arrests call to mind the “knock on the door at the dead of night” and the rounding-up of opposition voices by the NKVD, the KGB, the Gestapo, the Securitate, the Stasi and the rest.

“The methodology and practices of the Cultural Revolution, along with the totalitarianism and intolerance of authoritarian states, should be consigned to history, not mimicked in Hong Kong. . The authorities there should be using all their energy and resources to fight the coronavirus, not to harass and intimidate proponents of democracy. I hope that the Government will use the Magnitsky powers and sanctions against those responsible for these appalling offences.

“China needs the genius of Hong Kong’s people, but there will be a flight of people and capital if it continues to erode its freedoms, the rule of law and prosperity. From 2010 to 2018, Hong Kong was home to 73% of the initial public offerings of mainland Chinese companies—including Alibaba, which decided to list in Hong Kong at the height of the unrest last year. Similarly, the Hong Kong-Shanghai stock connect scheme is increasingly the preferred means by which western investors access the mainland stock market, and Hong Kong is the largest offshore centre for bond sales by Chinese companies.”

May 27th 2020

Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: World Health Assembly (27 May 2020)

Lord Alton of LiverpoolCrossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what policy objectives they intend to set for their participation in the 73rd Session of the World Health Organisation’s World Health Assembly due to be held from 17 to 21 May; what plans they have to raise the case for a formal international investigation of the government of China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan at that Assembly; and what discussions they intend to have with other governments, in advance of the Assembly, about conducting such an investigation.

Minister’s reply

Lord BethellThe Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The United Kingdom participated fully in the 73rdWorld Health Assembly which we saw as an important opportunity to further international collaboration on COVID-19. We believe the World Health Organization (WHO) has an important role to play in leading the global health response. We want to see the WHO continue to learn lessons on how to improve its response to global health emergencies and as such would expect a full review of all elements of their response once they are out of response mode, as has occurred after previous Public Health Emergencies of International Concern. The Secretary of State raised this point in the United Kingdom national address and we were pleased to co-sponsor the COVID-19 resolution, which was an important step forward on the review as well as other areas of collaboration. The UKintends to engage constructively with a future review, including working with other Governments.

January 12th 2021

“I think particularly this evening of a young woman called Zhang Zhan, who was arrested as a citizen journalist. She is a lawyer by background and had gone to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. She has been languishing in a jail ever since, for some of the time on hunger strike. We know that many dissidents—people who have spoken out against the regime—including lawyers, have been arrested, and some have disappeared, never to be seen again.”

April 22nd 2021

“The threat to our way of life is symbolised by the treatment of Dr Li Wenliang after he tried to warn the world about Covid and the CCP’s imprisonment of a courageous young lawyer and citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, tortured for going to Wuhan to expose the truth. It is symbolised by the jailing of Hong Kong’s democrats and the genocide of Uighurs.”

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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