Chinese Scientist Who Shared Covid Sequence Protests Lab Closure

A well-known Chinese scientist who defied a Chinese government gag order by being the first to disclose the genome of the Covid virus to a global database four years ago held a rare protest this week in Shanghai after being locked out of his lab.

The scientist, Zhang Yongzhen, had run a laboratory in Shanghai since 2018, but found over the weekend that the facility had been sealed off with one of his colleagues locked inside, according to a Chinese news outlet. Dr. Zhang’s key card had been canceled and the elevators had been turned off.

On Sunday evening, he began sleeping outdoors on flattened cardboard in front of locked blue doors at the sidewalk entrance to the lab, photos posted online by students showed. At least five security guards could be seen in one of the photos.

Another news outlet, the online website of a state media agency in Shandong Province, reported on Monday about Dr. Zhang’s sit-in, and quoted him as saying then that, “I am still waiting for the problem to be solved, but no one has come to solve it.”

The accounts of Dr. Zhang’s ordeal drew a public outcry on Chinese social media, with people posting thousands of comments on the report from Shandong Province media. Many of them criticized the Shanghai government and its public health center, which owns the lab, for locking the prominent scientist out.

Early Wednesday morning, Dr. Zhang wrote in a post on his social media account that his team had been allowed to resume research in the lab. He thanked his students and people who had voiced support for him online, and said that discussions were underway to resolve an ongoing dispute over payment for past work and his continued employment.

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