New reporting points to the increasing likelihood the coronavirus outbreak that has brought the world to its knees came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China — but not as a bioweapon.
Instead, the belief is that China was attempting to prove it could identify and fight viruses just as well as scientists in the United States. That's the picture unfolding from multiple sources who were briefed on the details of China's early actions according to Fox News.
They also say Chinese officials blamed a wet market in Wuhan as a way to deflect attention from the lab.
Gordon Chang, an expert on China and author of the book "The Coming Collapse of China," believes there's enough information to support the laboratory claim.
"If you eliminate the wet market theory, then the only other possible source is one of those two laboratories that Beijing maintained in Wuhan," he told CBN News. "We know that Beijing is trying to suppress information. So they've got information to hide, which means that a release — an accidental release from one of these labs — is the most probable theory."
"Even though this was an accidental release, Beijing had malign motives," he added. "I can't say what was in Xi Jinping's mind, but if he — after seeing the devastation in China — if he wanted to spread this deliberately to other countries, he would have done exactly what he did."
But sources say the intelligence isn't definitive, and some in the Trump administration are also skeptical.
However, what the sources do agree on is the Chinese government's extensive cover-up of data and information.
According to Fox, the sources say the World Health Organization helped China cover its tracks from the beginning. Chang agrees.
"The World Health Organization also supported Beijing's narrative that its statistics on infections and deaths were accurate," Chang continued. "So in many ways, the WHO has caused this disease to spread much further and faster."
Also, researchers at the University of Southampton believe China's delayed response fueled the virus's rapid spread. The study suggests the number of COVID-19 cases could have been reduced by 95 percent had the Chinese government reacted to the initial outbreak three weeks earlier.
But Chang told CBN News Chinese officials were too busy hiding the potentially damaging information.
"Beijing knew about the human to human transmission of the coronavirus," he said. "They only talked about it publicly on Jan. 20, but they knew about it well before — perhaps as far back as the second week of December."