CHINA'S use of labs which study bats is under the spotlight following the Covid pandemic which has killed millions worldwide.
Yet, while the focus is rightly on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one expert points to Beijing's experiments on monkeys which are born with mutated genes.
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Jasper Becker, an author and journalist who has covered China for 20 years, points to the reported 'lax' biosecurity at these facilities as evidence that the coronavirus did emerge from such a lab.
The Communist Party has strongly denied any suggestion that the virus is man-made, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
Becker says that scientists in Wuhan – where the disease was first reported – have created more than 1,000 genetically-engineered animals before anyone had heard the name Covid-19.
At these sinister facilities, monkeys and rabbits are injected with gene-altered viruses – with some being similar to SARS-CoV-2.
Writing for The Mail on Sunday, Becker writes: "The fact is that China has a reputation for recklessly encouraging, or at least tolerating, all kinds of experiments that are not permitted elsewhere in the world."
He claims Chinese scientists have been taking "daring" and "unethical" risks with their lab experiments.
"And since the lucrative global biotech investment boom started, Chinese researchers seem to be taking even more daring risks with experiments on animals – and even humans – that would be deemed unethical in most Western countries," he writes.
Becker says China's lab work is supervised by the People's Liberation Army, which monitors two areas – gene modification that can "create better soldiers" and gene-edited micro-organisms that can make biological weapons to which have no cure.
"These laboratories are meant to be biosecure, but dealing with live animals poses unique safety challenges", he says.
"After all, monkeys run about, bite and scratch, unlike a pathogen kept in a test tube. They also excrete, have parasites and shed skin and fur. All of this carries the risk of contamination."
While some of the regime's lab work has been dubbed “monstrous” other cutting edge research could lead to cures for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
However, China has become the capital of research on apes and monkeys believing our closest relatives hold the key to understanding human brain disorders.
Incredibly, the Institute of Neuroscience (ION) in Shanghai, cloned five infant monkeys in 2019 from an adult macaque who had been genetically-edited.
The result was baby primates intentionally born with a mutation that disrupts their wake-sleep cycle.
By giving the monkeys new drugs to treat their pre-existing brain disorders, the researchers hope to develop treatments for illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease.
The Institute successfully cloned two macaque monkeys in 2018 – a world first – giving the scientists confidence to push ahead with further experiments.
According to the lab leak theory, Covid-19 emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) where researchers tinker with lethal bugs which have no cure.
Back in 2015, experts at WIV engineered a new hybrid 'super-virus' that can infect humans, according to journal Nature Medicine.
Despite fears surrounding the research, the study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to people.
And the city's second facility, named the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control (WCDC), is located only 300 yards from the wet market where the Communist Party first suggested it jumped from animals to humans.
A research paper titled 'The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus' claims the lab kept as many as 605 bats for research.
In one incident, scientists there were sprayed with blood and urine from the flying beasts, forcing them to go into quarantine, the paper says.
WCDC researcher Tian Junhua, seen on video collecting the screeching animals, was sprayed with bat pee which was said to be "dripping like raindrops” from him after he forgot the wear his protective suit, the report claims.
And then there's the so-called 'batwoman', a scientist who warned of the enormous danger posed by her own research after creating a new form of coronavirus in a Wuhan lab.
Shi Zhengli, Wuhan Institute of Virology's lead coronavirus researcher, was among a number of scientists who proved in 2015 that the spike protein of a novel coronavirus could infect human cells, Vanity Fair reports.
Experts inserted a protein from a Chinese rufous horseshoe bat into a SARS virus from 2002, creating a coronavirus which could infect humans.
This "Frankenvirus" experiment – when scientists tinker with viruses to see if they can infect or spread faster – was so alarming that the authors flagged the danger, writing "scientific review panels may deem similar studies…too risky to pursue".
"The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens," concerned researchers wrote.
Becker says China's Communist Party will continue to lie about the origins of the virus, because the truth could spark a revolution.
He writes: "The truth is that Beijing is never likely to accept responsibility for creating a new virus…
"If it did own up, it would be liable for huge reparations.
"The national shame might spell the end of the Chinese Communist Party's 70-year rule.
"It would start a political earthquake which would begin in China and upend the world order."
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