On 12 March last year, I texted a trusted source connected to Australia’s foreign intelligence agency. ‘What do you think about the theory that the virus came from a virology lab in China? Does that have credibility? I know it’s officially a conspiracy theory but China is not exactly a picture of transparency so I thought it’s possible.’
He replied to say he knew someone ‘very involved in the observation of that lab and its activities’ and it was a definite possibility the virus leaked from the facility. It was a surprising response because, at the time, this view contradicted every utterance by scientists and world leaders, who insisted the virus had a natural origin. Most media outlets dismissed the lab-leak theory as a conspiracy.
A month after this exchange, I confirmed and reported on a global scoop for my paper in Australia, that the Five Eyes intelligence network of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were seriously examining the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The story went global. For the following year, as I developed new sources around the world and unravelled the complexities of the Chinese Communist party’s suppression of the theory, I wrote a book on the topic and my reporting made me a target of the CCP.
There have been many personal attacks by the CCP newspaper Global Times, the English-language propaganda newspaper China Daily and the China Global Television Network, which have repeatedly tried to smear and discredit me. The Global Times called me a ‘bugler for American lies on China’. Another piece accused me of ‘fabricating anti-China rumours’ in order to ‘slander China’. China Daily said I had ‘helped to poison the international community’s rhetoric’. After the Australian foreign minister Marise Payne called for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in April last year, Chinese authorities claimed my stories were sanctioned by, or even commissioned by, the Australian government.