Chinese state media outlets have removed quotes by an alleged Swiss biologist carried widely in local and social media on the politicisation of the Covid-19 origin probe after the Switzerland embassy in Beijing expressed its suspicion and termed it a fake news.
Switzerland’s foreign ministry said Wednesday that several Chinese newspaper websites have removed comments about the coronavirus pandemic that were “wrongly presented” as coming from a Swiss biologist who does not appear to exist. The press and social media comments in Chinese media outlets widely carried comments by a biologist identified as Wilson Edwards who took aim at alleged US pressure on researchers amid the pandemic. Chinese authorities and state media outlets have led an aggressive pushback against criticism abroad of China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Chinese state media outlets like People’s Daily (PD), China Daily and national broadcaster CGTN were among state media outlets, which had published articles quoting him, attributing it to Edwards’ Facebook profile. The articles cannot be accessed anymore though an authenticated Facebook account of People’s Daily newspaper still had an English language reference to an article from CGTN, the international arm of the Chinese state broadcaster, quoting Wilson. The Swiss embassy said the Facebook account was opened in late July and only had three friends. “It is likely that this Facebook account was not opened for social networking purposes,” the Swiss embassy added.
The Swiss embassy in Beijing highlighted its suspicions about the quoted scientist on Tuesday with a Twitter post: “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!” the embassy tweeted.
A detailed message attached with the post, written in English and Chinese, said no Swiss citizen named Wilson Edwards appeared on registries or academic articles from the biology field. It said the Facebook account where comments attributed to Wilson were published was opened on July 24. The embassy said that while it appreciated Switzerland receiving attention, it “must unfortunately inform the Chinese public that this news is false”. “While we assume that the spreading of this story was done in good faith by the media and netizens, we kindly ask that anyone having published this story take it down and publish a corrigendum,” the embassy post said.