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Chinese media in fake news allegations about Swiss scientists critical of the US | China

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Chinese state media articles quoting a Swiss biologist accusing the US of politicizing the investigation into the origin of Covid were silently deleted after the Swiss government said there was no such person.

On July 24, a Facebook post from an account named Wilson Edwards claimed to have heard of US efforts to politicize the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 investigations from within.

Edwards cited unnamed WHO sources and “fellow researchers” who complained about having endured “tremendous pressure and even intimidation from the US and certain media.”

“WHO sources told me that the US is so obsessed with attacking China on tracing issues that they are reluctant to open their eyes to the data and results.”

The Facebook post was picked up in multiple languages ​​by Chinese state media including the Global Times, People’s Daily – which headlined its story as “US attempts to overturn the report and use WHO as a political tool” – China Daily and CGTN .

Edwards’ growing fame caught the attention of the Swiss Embassy, ​​prompting staff to search citizen files and academic publications for mentions. On Tuesday it was posted on Twitter: “Looking for Wilson Edwards, supposedly [Swiss] Biologist who has been quoted in the press and social media in China in the past few days. If you exist, we’d love to get to know you! ”It said.

“But it is more likely that this a [sic] Fake news, and we urge the Chinese press and internet users to remove the posts. “

An accompanying statement stated that the Chinese reports were false and that there was no registered Swiss citizen named Wilson Edwards or academic articles in the field of biology under his name.

On Wednesday, Chinese state media articles began to disappear from the Internet, including the Global Times and CGTN. The Wilson Edwards Facebook account, created the same day he posted his only post with an Oxford University library profile photo and only had three friends, also appeared to have been deleted.

People’s Daily Facebook posts and at least one China Daily article remained live on Wednesday afternoon.

The as-yet-unknown origins of the Covid-19 virus have become a central point of hostility between China and other countries – especially the US.

China has consistently denied theories and allegations that the virus may have originated from a laboratory leak in Wuhan. An investigation in January by a joint China-WHO team – criticized for a lack of transparency and access because investigators were not provided with the data they requested – found that the laboratory leak theory was less likely than other scenarios, but concluded it not from .

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later said the attempt to dismiss the theory was “premature,” but China took up the finding. It has since refused to work with a proposal from the WHO to further investigate the possibility and audit Chinese laboratories as part of the next phase of the investigation. Instead, State Department officials and state media have widely spread unproven theories that the virus leaked from a U.S. facility.

The Guardian has asked Chinese outlets to comment.

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