Where did the coronavirus come from, or Why China needs a fake Swiss scientist?
A Swiss biologist sharply criticized the U.S. and the WHO for refuting the thesis of a laboratory origin of the coronavirus. He was quoted extensively in the Chinese media. It turned out that such a scientist did not exist.
Neutrality, reliability, and correctness are the three concepts with which most people in the world associate Switzerland. And for many, Swiss scientists are the living embodiment of these qualities. So a Facebook post by University of Bern biologist Wilson Edwards, in which he wrote about the pressure and even intimidation to which the United States and some media have subjected his fellow scientists trying to establish the origin of the coronavirus, seemed quite credible.
State-owned Chinese media and Internet platforms widely quoted the Swiss biologist's report: it confirmed official Beijing's claims that all versions of the coronavirus in the Wuhan laboratory are slanderous by the United States, with no scientific evidence.
Wuhan Institute of Virology, whose laboratory, according to the U.S., may have produced the coronavirus
With reference to the statements of the Bern scientist, the Chinese media called American speculation about the alleged artificial origin of the coronavirus a classic example of fake news and propaganda.
Wilson Edwards was thanked for his scientifically sound explanations and admired for his honesty and courage in debunking the "alternative facts.
The Swiss Embassy in China is looking for Wilson Edwards
On August 10, the Swiss embassy in Beijing, which usually has no particular sense of humor, posted on its Twitter page and its Chinese counterpart Weibo: "Wilson Edwards, if you really exist, we would love to meet you.
Further searches revealed that no person was registered under this name in Switzerland and no scientific work had been published. The Swiss embassy demanded that the Chinese media remove all materials mentioning the nonexistent scientist from Bern.
Since then, articles about the Swiss biologist have been removed from the Xinhua state news agency and from the websites of the English-language newspapers China Daily and Global Times. The Facebook page of the supposed Wilson Edwards, apparently created for a single "exposé" post, also disappeared. The Chinese-language media, which regularly accuses Western media outlets of spreading fake news, are in no hurry to remove the links to the Bernese scientist - you can still find quotes from the nonexistent expert on some websites.
Fake sites for Chinese propaganda
More recently, the British non-governmental organization Centre for Information Resilience published the results of a new study that found more than 350 fake profiles on social networks that spread Chinese state propaganda.
They discussed topics such as the coronavirus, human rights violations in Xinjiang or racism. The goal of these posts was to steer the discussion in Beijing's favor and discredit Western governments, the study said.
The case of Wilson Edwards shows how politicized attempts to establish the nature of the origin of the coronavirus have become - especially for China. The U.S. and the WHO are still not giving up on the laboratory creation of SARS-CoV-2. And while this theory remains valid, Beijing refuses to participate in any further investigations - if necessary by enlisting the support of a nonexistent Swiss scientist.