Chinese Government Facing Challenges Due To Coronavirus Disinformation

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Information about deaths from coronavirus in China is being censored with facts being dismissed as “rumors”.
  • Most people in China are convinced about coronavirus not having a natural origin.

Accused of spreading “rumors”, Dr. Li Wenliang has been punished for trying to warn others about the spread of coronavirus. This incident has given a whole new meaning to the word “rumor”.

The anger is mounting among many Chinese people over the heavy-handed government censorship where unpleasant truths are being dismissed as “rumors” and truth tellers are threatened or punished. Erosion of trust towards government and police that is visible on Chinese social media platforms, it is clear that authorities have paid a price for silencing the truth. Many social posts could have raised more awareness among the public and perhaps better prepared them for the deadly outbreak had the warnings of Li and other medical workers had not been muzzled. Now over 84,000 people are suffering from coronavirus and hundreds of millions have been placed under varying forms of lockdown.

Struggling with Disinformation

Chinese scientists are also denying the facts about virus being developed in a lab. Calling the virus “natural” was the first disinformation about coronavirus.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, an affiliate of the central government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, runs the only lab on the Chinese mainland that is equipped for the highest level of biocontainment to research easily transmitted pathogens that includes coronavirus.

While some people wonder if virus escaped from the lab, others believe it came from bats and started in humans after a student studying in Wuhan lab got bitten by a bat.

To quell the rumors about bat-related viruses, lead virologist announced on social media saying that she “guaranteed with her own life” that the facility she worked in had nothing to do with the outbreak. Two weeks later, institute followed up by issuing a statement to denounce the accusations.

Suspecting cover-up by government, most people in China are convinced about the fact that coronavirus DOES NOT have a natural origin. Last month, a man in Inner Mongolia was detained for 10 days and fined 500 yuan ($71) for spreading the rumor about coronavirus being a biological weapon made by the US government. His arrest further convinced people that Chinese government was covering up something.

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