From the initial stages of the emergence of the Corona Virus pandemic COVID-19, conspiracy theories about the origin and scale of disease spread on online platforms.
And in the months leading up to the explosion of the pandemic, not only have these theories not disappeared, but new and unverified claims have been promoted by government officials, senior politicians and media outlets in China and the US.
Claims that the virus is man-made have been driven by many conspiracy groups on Facebook, blurring Twitter accounts and even finding their way to the famous Russian state TV.
Among these are false claims that the virus is part of China’s “secret biological weapons program”, and baseless claims that the Canadian-Chinese spy team has sent the new Corona Virus to Wuhan.
Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, has repeatedly promoted the idea without evidence that COVID-19 might come from the US.
On March 12, he said on his Twitter account that it might be US troops who brought the virus to Wuhan.
A day later, he wrote again on his Twitter an article by the Global Research website entitled “Further evidence that the virus originated in the US”, and urged users to read and share it. The article was later deleted.
While stressing that diplomats had made claims in “personal capacity”, his statement echoed “with the same doubts raised by the Chinese people”, the paper wrote.
Zhao’s claim was also strengthened by a number of Chinese embassies and social media users in various parts of the world.
Chinese Specialist from BBC Monitoring, Kerry Allen said that Zhao was known as an outspoken figure especially on social media. He has a different personality in mainland China and does not always represent a leadership view.
Founded in 2001 in Canada, Global Research is the website of the Globalization Research Center. According to PolitiFact, an independent fact-checking website based in the US, Global Research “has developed extensive conspiracy theories about topics such as 9/11, vaccines and global warming”.
The article distributed by Zhao was written by permanent contributor Larry Romanoff, who repeated the conclusion of an earlier article – now removed – that the virus did not originate from China.
But Chinese research and articles in the Science magazine that he quoted did not really question China as the place where the plague began. Instead, they only suggested that the animal market specifically in Wuhan might not be the origin of the new Corona Virus.
Romanoff also claimed that Japanese and Taiwanese scientists “had determined that a new type of Corona Virus might have originated in the US”.
But his conclusion seems to be based on Japanese TV reports now disputed from February and claims made on Taiwan TV by a pharmacology professor who turned into a politician from a pro-Beijing party which Romanoff mistakenly described as “top virus expert” as the first denominator.
Romanoff also claimed without proof that the US military’s germ laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, might be the original source of the virus. He added that “this would not be surprising” because the facility was “completely closed” last year due to “lack of protection to prevent pathogen leakage”.
In fact, as the New York Times reported at the time, the facility was not closed, but only delayed its research, and a spokesman said “there was no leakage of hazardous materials outside the laboratory”.