State media in China have quietly scrubbed reports of an alleged Swiss biologist criticizing the United States’ efforts to investigate the origins of the pandemic, after Switzerland’s embassy in Beijing said the biologist was unlikely to be a real person, according to their records.
Swiss diplomats began searching for the biologist, named Wilson Edwards, after his name dominated Chinese state-backed media reports at the end of July.
According to Chinese social media chatter and state media reports, the researcher allegedly suffered “intimidation” from the United States for supporting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) investigation into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Virus.
On Aug. 10, the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing said that Edwards may not exist. They said there were no registered citizens named Wilson Edwards, nor were any biology papers published under that name.
“If you exist, we would like to meet you!” the embassy wrote in a post, in both English and Chinese on Twitter and Weibo.
The embassy said reports on the account are likely to be “fake news” and asked Chinese media outlets to remove such reports.
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
The story has since removed from China’s English-language broadcaster CGTV and other Chinese state-backed media outlets, but CGTV’s Chinese article could still be viewed as of Friday.
A Facebook account that acted as the source of information for the Chinese news reports has also disappeared. Swiss diplomats said the account had one post and three friends after it opened on July 24.
According to reports, Edwards’ Facebook account described him as a Swiss biologist. He wrote that the push for the WHO second phase investigation into the origin of COVID-19 was a “result of political pressure from the U.S.”
Last month, the WHO announced an audit of the Wuhan lab and research institutions where the virus was first identified. The agency said Beijing didn’t share raw patient data to the probe and called on the Chinese regime to be “transparent” and “co-operative.”
Beijing has rejected efforts for an unsupervised investigation into the origin of the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19. Top Chinese health officials asked the WHO to “get rid of political interference” on July 22.
On July 30, state media outlets, such as Global Times and China Daily, shared a report about the Facebook post from China’s central broadcaster CGTV.
In the report, the so-called biologist cited a source at the WHO, saying the United States was “attacking” the Chinese regime as it was calling for tracing the virus origin. “Some of his fellow researchers were under ‘enormous pressure’ and ‘intimidation’ from the U.S. and some media outlets,” Edwards’ posts stated, as repeated by Chinese media reports.
Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)
Meanwhile, a recent report by the Center for Information Resilience (CIR) found that a sprawling Chinese social media network has attempted to sow doubts about U.S. claims that there is growing evidence that the CCP virus originated from a Wuhan lab.
The accounts, existing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, have fake profile images almost indistinguishable from real people. CIR pointed out the network’s intent in their report.
“Our research shows evidence of a deliberate effort to distort international perceptions on significant issues—in this case, in favor of China,” said Benjamin Strick, the author of the CIR report.
“The aim of the network appears to be to delegitimize the West by amplifying pro-Chinese narratives,” Strick said.
“There appears to be close overlaps in narratives shared by the network, to those shared by the social media accounts of China state representatives and state-linked media.”
A guard wears protective gear as he stands at the entrance to the Hubei provincial centre for disease control and prevention while members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of COVID-19 visit the centre in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 1, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. intelligence is also currently drafting a report for President Joe Biden as the deadline of a three-month investigation into the virus’s origin approaches. It comes amid the possibility that the CCP virus leaked from Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) gains wider recognition.
Anthony Fauci, the chief of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in May he was not confident that the CCP virus developed naturally, though earlier, he insisted that transmission from animal to human was the most likely origin.
The WHO admitted in July that it was “premature” to rule out the possibility of a lab leak, which the agency had previously said was “extremely unlikely” in a report in March.
The Chinese regime claimed that the pandemic started from the Wuhan seafood market. However, three members of the WIV were admitted to hospital in November 2019, several weeks before Beijing acknowledged the first infected case.