Chinese state media outlets have removed quotes and citations related to a purported Swiss biologist after the Swiss embassy in Beijing urged the press and netizens to take down such posts, citing “fake news”.
The alleged biologist, known as “Wilson Edwards” on Facebook, made claims about having witnessed instances of the United States trying to “politicise” the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s attempts at probing the origins of the coronavirus.
“I have the impression that WHO’s new plans, which include lab audits, are largely politically motivated,” the post read.
According to “Edwards”, a “source” revealed that US President Joe Biden would “spare no efforts” to “rebuild US influence in the organization” and “seek to dominate key issues”.
“The U.S. is so obsessed with attacking China on the origin-tracing issue that it is reluctant to open its eyes to the data and findings,” claimed “Edwards”.
In a statement on Tuesday (10 August), the embassy said that no registry of any Swiss citizen with such a name exists and no academic articles in the field of biology have been cited under the name.
The embassy added that the Facebook account under which “Edwards” had reportedly published his commentary was newly opened on 24 July, with only one post on the account so far.
“It is likely that this Facebook account was not opened for social networking purposes,” said the embassy.
The embassy also tweeted: “Looking for Wilson Edwards, alleged 🇨🇭 biologist, cited in press and social media in China over the last several days. If you exist, we would like to meet you!”
“But it is more likely that this is a fake news, and we call on the Chinese press and netizens to take down the posts,” the embassy urged.
Looking for Wilson Edwards, alleged 🇨🇭 biologist, cited in press and social media in China over the last several days. If you exist, we would like to meet you! But it is more likely that this is a fake news, and we call on the Chinese press and netizens to take down the posts. pic.twitter.com/U6ku5EGibm
— Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing (@SwissEmbChina) August 10, 2021
As of Wednesday, articles by CGTN, People’s Daily, and China Daily no longer appear to contain citations related to “Edwards”.
The Global Times took down an entire article by CGTN titled “COVID-19 origin tracing: Claim emerges of ‘intimidation’ from the US”. A cached version of the article, however, is still available as of Wednesday evening.
The controversy on tracing the origins of the coronavirus centres a joint investigation by China and a team of WHO experts in Wuhan — where the coronavirus was first discovered — earlier this year.
Their report found that it was “unlikely” that the virus had leaked from a lab and that a zoonotic spread — humans being infected from animals — was more plausible.
Beijing has since rejected plans for a further probe.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticised the probe and later called for WHO to proceed with its own investigation.
In May, Biden ordered the US intelligence community to search again for evidence about the origins of the coronavirus within 90 days, Washington Post reported.
Previous instances of alleged “experts” from the “West” making commentaries of a pro-Beijing nature include a French journalist named Laurène Beaumond, who supposedly contributed to a CGTN report on the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in a bid to counter allegations of Uyghur persecution.
French newspaper Le Monde revealed in March that there was no such French journalist.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry later denied this claim, stating that she was not registered officially. It did not, however, indicate whether “Beaumond” had used her real name.