June 21 (UPI) -- A senior Chinese state security official may be missing, as rumors swirl in Chinese-language social media about his whereabouts.
Reports indicate the man already may have defected to the United States with sensitive information about the origins of COVID-19.
Vice Minister of State Security Dong Jingwei, 57, is believed to have fled China with classified information about the novel coronavirus, Daily Telegraph in Sydney reported Monday.
Dong may have secretly traveled from Hong Kong to the United States on Feb. 10, escaping with his daughter, Dong Yang, according to SpyTalk, a newsletter covering U.S. intelligence.
Rumors of Dong's defection first circulated on Chinese-language social media platforms, Taiwan's Liberty Times reported Saturday.
Overseas Chinese pro-democracy activists claimed there is evidence father and daughter took off from Hong Kong with "relevant information from the Wuhan Institute of Virology," according to the report.
China has not issued an official response to Dong's rumored defection, but on Friday Xi ordered top officials of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to swear an oath ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP on July 1, according to Liberty Times on Sunday.
As Dong's whereabouts remained unconfirmed, on Friday Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported China's law enforcement agency claimed Dong was in China, attending an intelligence seminar.
China's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission said Dong ordered the country's spies to hunt down "anti-China" forces. The commission did not disclose the location of the seminar. No photo of Dong accompanied the article.
Reports of Dong's alleged defection come as members of the international community appeared to agree on trying to confirm COVID-19's origins.
The World Health Organization's Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the G7 summit earlier this month that the most recent studies have been inconclusive.
"Close to 3.75 million people have died," the WHO chief said. "This is very tragic, and I think the respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is so that we can prevent it from happening again."
Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a close intelligence review of COVID-19 origins.