The U.S. Department of Education is investigating a potential link between the University of Alabama and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the facility that may be the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At issue is the Partnerships page of the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s website, which lists the University of Alabama, along with six other American entities, including Harvard University.

In a seven-page Dec. 22 letter from Reed Rubinstein, principal deputy general counsel, to UA President Stuart Bell, the department’s Office of the General Counsel says that the school could be in violation of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which requires institutions of higher education to fully report gifts and contracts “from or with a foreign source” to federal authorities.

The letter gives the university 30 days to produce any records related to the partnership or with any affiliated universities or groups, including the Communist Party of China, going back as far as Jan. 1, 2015.

The University of Alabama has issued a denial:

“The UA reference on the Wuhan Institute of Virology website was brought to our attention earlier this year. At that time, we reviewed any possible related institutional records to determine the basis for the reference. We found no ties or connection between UA and WIV, and no reason for UA to be listed on the website.

University officials reached out to WVI to question the reference and requested the UA reference on the website be removed, but never received a response. We have relayed this information to the Department of Education.”

There are five other institutions also acknowledged by the Wuhan institution to be part of a “partnership”. Per the institution’s website:

University of Alabama

University of North Texas

EcoHealth Alliance

Harvard University

The National Institutes of Health, the United States

National Wildlife Federation

Meanwhile, China has jailed a citizen-journalist for four years over Wuhan virus reporting during that city’s battle with the disease.

Zhang Zhan, 37, the first such person known to have been tried, was among a handful of people whose firsthand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicentre than the official narrative.

“I don’t understand. All she did was say a few true words, and for that she got four years,” said Shao Wenxia, Zhang’s mother, who attended the trial with her husband.

Zhang’s lawyer Ren Quanniu told Reuters: “We will probably appeal.”

The trial was held at a court in Pudong, a district of the business hub of Shanghai.

“Ms Zhang believes she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech,” Ren had said before the trial.

Critics say that China deliberately arranged for Zhang’s trial to take place during the Western holiday season to minimize Western attention and scrutiny. U.S. President Donald Trump has regularly criticised Beijing for covering up the emergence of what he calls the “China virus”.


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