A FORMER US Trade Delegate has claimed he was forced to flee China after visiting the Wuhan laboratory and raising concerns about deadly virus tests.
Ron Fleming compared the under-fire lab at the center of the storm over the origins of Covid to a “military camp” when he visited in the late 1990s – and believes he has found the “first piece of the puzzle”.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been at the center of the lab leak controversy since Covid first emerged just a stone’s throw from the facility – which is known to study very similar bat viruses.
Many scientists and intelligence officials suspect that bungling lab researchers accidentally spread Covid during risky experiments with bat coronaviruses.
With a background in bioengineering, Ron was working for the US Foreign Commercial Services promoting products in Wuhan when he came across what he described as a “secret laboratory.”
It was a routine business trip for the 62-year-old in 1998 until he was called in to investigate a mysterious virus that had affected a group of fish in a lake.
It turned out that the lake was just a few meters from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
After ruling out other causes of the virus, he became convinced that the nearby laboratory played a role in the death of the virus-contaminated fish.
He believes he has uncovered the “dark secret” of the Wuhan Institute of Virology – he claims that scientists specifically conducted virus experiments on the fish.
After making the discovery, Ron said he was forced to flee China because he was avoiding Communist Party officials and the Chinese military.
He returned to Hong Kong and immediately told US diplomats about the lab and his suspicions – but nothing was done.
In his book Wuhan Unleashed, Ron said: “Whatever happened was obviously targeted.”
“Worse, they could potentially have genetically modified a virus.
“Every possible answer seemed more frightening by the minute.
“I always knew something was wrong. I was always afraid something would happen.”
During his visit to the lake, Ron described the moment he saw the sprawling Wuhan lab in the distance – and suspected that the fish’s deaths had to be lab-related.
He remembered a large number of satellite dishes, huge antenna masts and a high level of security.
After they arrived at the lake, Ron and his translator made their way to themMeeting.
His translator Mike said they were on their way to a laboratory to demonstrate rapid tests for diseases such as cholera, malaria and bird flu.
But Ron described the alarming moment when he realized their meeting was taking place in the heavily guarded Wuhan laboratory – the facility Ron had seen in the distance.
Ron immediately suspected something was wrong – and said he was overcome with panic.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, here comes the leak, this is where I think everything happens,'” he said.
“I had to leave, I didn’t know if we were being watched.”
As he approached the now-infamous lab, he described a huge building heavily guarded by the Chinese military with steel barriers to block it.
Ron told The Sun it felt like a “military camp”.
“It was all military,” he told The Sun. “They weren’t civilians. I knew it was a military lab.”
“It doesn’t look the same as it does today. 20 years ago, not many outsiders came in. The whole area was a whole quarantine area.”
“It was really scary. The military was watching it the whole time.”
A panicked Ron said he was also worried that the lab was “being monitored by an adversary who could potentially take advantage of our presence.”
“I didn’t want to be seen entering the building, nor did I want to enter the building,” he said.
“As a civilian who traded, I was afraid of being viewed as a spy.
“That’s why I wanted to leave the country. We tried to get out without telling them what we found out.”
He said he immediately wondered how a potential virus would be released from the facility.
He asked, “Was it a coincidence?” Have you done any research outside of the lab? I was confident that my theories were correct.”
“The CCP was attempting to manipulate a virus… and it may also have been in the early stages of attempting to alter, enhance or manipulate the DNA structure of a virus, known as gain-of-function research.”
“In the late 1990s, the United States was only at the beginning of gain-of-function research.
“This is just one of many reasons why our discovery was so concerning and alarming.”
I always knew something was wrong. I was always afraid that something would happen
Unnerved by the military presence in the lab and his suspicions, Ron decided to cancel the meeting, return to his hotel with Mike, and head to the airport to flee Wuhan.
When he arrived, he claimed several military officials were sitting in the lobby “watching our every move.”
“We knew these people were there to monitor us because Mike was friends with the hotel manager who tipped us off,” he writes in his book.
“Luckily our ride to the airport was waiting outside the lobby door.
“About halfway through the flight, I asked Mike if he thought the authorities had been alerted – or if he thought they knew we had suspicions about the lab.
“Mike looked out the plane window, thought for a minute, then turned back to me and said, ‘I think they know’.”
“Pretending there was a scheduling error with the lab appointment (hopefully) gave us enough time to leave China.”
Ron said he has contacted the U.S. Embassy and his trade chiefs to inform them of their experiences and his suspicions about the lab.
He assumed officials would monitor the lab and make the site a no-go zone for U.S. citizens doing business in China.
But in 2014, the New York-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance received a grant from the U.S. government to study bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
After his visit, Ron said he always suspected the Wuhan lab was “a front for a bioweapons research facility.”
A House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report claimed that Covid may have been linked to a secret Chinese bioweapons program – and was accidentally leaked.
“When I discovered the lab, I was pretty sure we had stumbled upon the CCP’s bioresearch program,” Ron said.
“My main focus at the time was to find out whether they had the knowledge and tools to make genetic changes to a virus.
“At that time, it was highly unlikely that the CCP had the knowledge or tools to genetically splice a virus.
“However, it was clear that they were experimenting and attempting to achieve the goal of amplifying or manipulating a virus.”
The FBI and the US Department of Energy now believe that Covid most likely leaked from a laboratory in China.
And declassified intelligence documents confirmed that Wuhan scientists first became ill with Covid-like symptoms in late 2019 – raising questions about whether they accidentally became infected in the lab.
As The Sun previously reported, a shocking study revealed a series of worrying biosafety threats in “crowded and chaotic” labs in Wuhan – including dirty animal cages and crumbling sewers.
China has long been accused of trying to cover up or distort its role in the Covid story – which the country denies.