The Swiss embassy in China on Tuesday ‘fact-checked’ the Chinese state-sponsored media outlets media for quoting a fictitious Swiss scientist in their news articles accusing the United States of politicising Covid-19 origin investigations.
According to the reports, on 24 July, a Facebook post by an account named Wilson Edwards had claimed to have gained information regarding efforts by the United States to politicise the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 investigations from within.
Chinese State media outlets, including the Global Times, the People’s Daily, had carried articles with comments from “Wilson Edwards” on the origins of Covid-19 and the WHO’s independence.
The alleged Swiss scientist Wilson Edwards had quoted unnamed WHO sources and “fellow researchers” to claim that they have been facing “enormous pressure and even intimidation from the US side as well as certain media outlets” to interfere in the WHO’s investigation on Covid-19 origin.
“The WHO sources told me the US is so obsessed with attacking China on the origin-tracing issue that it is reluctant to open its eyes to the data and findings,” the purported post had claimed.
The so-called scientist had insinuated that the US government was attempting to reclaim its power in the WHO after his predecessor Donald Trump had withdrawn US membership from the international body in April 2020, soon after the Chinese pandemic began to cause havoc worldwide.
“I have the impression that WHO’s new plans, which include lab audits, are largely politically motivated,” Wilson Edwards was quoted as writing on the social media platform.
Chinese media quotes fake Swiss scientist, Swiss embassy fact-checks them
The Chines state media, including the Global Times, the People’s Daily, promptly picked up the story to create a narrative that the United States has been attempting to interfere in the WHO’s investigation. The Chinese media carried the story headlined its story as “US attempts to overturn report, leveraging WHO into political tool” in multiple languages.
A few days later, these reports caught the attention of the Swiss embassy, who dug up public records to find out that neither there was any such citizen nor any academic research was published in that name.
In response to Chinese propaganda, on Tuesday, the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing fact-checked the Chinese media outlets saying that the alleged Swiss biologist quoted by the Chinese media in recent days did not exist at all.
“Looking for Wilson Edwards, alleged [Swiss] biologist, cited in press and social media in China over the last several days. If you exist, we would like to meet you!” it said.
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
“While we appreciate the attention on our country, the Embassy of Switzerland must, unfortunately, inform the Chinese public that this news is false,” the Swiss embassy said in a statement posted on Twitter.
In its clarification, the Swiss embassy added that the reports are more likely to be “fake news” and asked the Chinese press and netizens to take down the posts.
Chinese media outlets take down fake posts on Swiss scientist
Following the response from the Swiss embassy, Chinese state media outlets have begun to remove the specific articles it had published by citing Swiss scientist Wilson Edwards.
Reportedly, the Facebook account of Wilson Edwards was created on the same day it published its only post claiming US interference in the WHO’s investigation. The profile had a photo of a library at Oxford University and had just three friends, which also have strangely disappeared on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the People’s Daily is yet to delete its posts live even after clarification from the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing.