BEIJING -- The World Heath Organization (WHO) has apologized to the Chinese
government after bird flu samples provided by China were misused by foreign
research institutions, China's chief veterinarian Jia Youling revealed Friday.
Bekedam from the WHO Beijing office apologized to me personally twice. His
attitude was very sincere and I was deeply moved", Jia told a press conference
hosted by the information office of the State Council, China's cabinet.
Jia, director of the Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary bureau, said China
provided five bird flu samples to the WHO in June 2005, at the WHO's request,
after a major outbreak in 2004.
"Foreign research institutions improperly used the samples in two cases,
violating the intellectual property rights of Chinese researchers," he said.
In one research paper, the samples were attributed to countries other than
China, Jia said, adding that co-author Rob Webster, from St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital in the United States, had also apologized to the Chinese
research institution concerned.
In another case, foreign researchers cited the Chinese sample without giving
credit to the Chinese side, which contravenes international practice, Jia said.
Jia declined to give the researchers' names.
Jia rejected accusations that China has been reluctant to share its bird flu
samples with the international community.
In addition to the five samples provided in 2005, he said China has provided
WHO with 20 further samples this year.
He said the provision of the 20 samples took several months because of
strict, time-consuming procedures on both sides. Great caution was needed to
handle dangerous bird flu samples.
Jia said the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to work closely with the
international community, including the WHO, to control bird flu.
Xinhua reporters were unable to reach WHO's Beijing office for comment. But
previously Bekedam told Reuters that the Chinese samples were used in research
that failed to acknowledge that China's Ministry of Agriculture had identified
the virus, in breach of scientific protocol.
"That happened twice, and I apologized on behalf of the WHO collaborating
center because that is bad behaviour among scientists," he