The first scientist to publish a sequence of the Covid-19 virus in China was staging a sit-in protest after authorities locked him out of his laboratory.

Zhang Yongzhen, a virologist, wrote in an online post on Monday that he and his team were suddenly notified they were being evicted from their lab, the latest in a series of setbacks, demotions and ousters since he published the sequence in early January 2020.

The move shows how the Chinese government continues to pressure and control scientists, seeking to avoid scrutiny of its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Zhang wrote the post on the social media platform Weibo but it was later deleted.

In protest, Zhang had been sitting outside his lab since Sunday despite pouring rain, he said in the post.

Zhang, when reached by phone on Tuesday, said it was “inconvenient” for him to speak, however a collaborator confirmed on Monday the demonstration was taking place.