Law 13:27 06/04/2020 World

AFP: Facebook posts falsely claim the US arrested a Chinese scientist who “created” coronavirus

Facebook posts shared thousands of times feature a video of US officials talking to reporters, with captions claiming they are announcing the arrest of a Chinese scientist who “created” the new coronavirus.

However, the footage has nothing to do with COVID-19 and scientists have refuted allegations the virus was deliberately created, AFP Fact Check reports.

“USA Arrested A Chinese Scientist That Created Coronavirus (sic),” reads the caption on a video shared more than 3,500 times by MOB TV, a Facebook page covering Nigerian news.

The clip features two officials from the US Department of Justice holding a press conference.

“We're here today to announce three separate cases highlighting the ongoing threat posed by Chinese economic espionage and research theft,” one of the men says, standing in front of a US Department of Justice sign.

“China’s communist government's goal, simply put, is to replace the United States as the world’s leading superpower and they’re breaking the law to get there,” his colleague says later on in the footage.

However, at no point do they refer to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 50,000 lives around the world as of April 3, 2020.

AFP ran a reverse image search on the video using the InVID We Verify tool, which traced the footage to local news reports on a press conference on January 28, 2020, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Scientists charged

At the conference, US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling and the head of Boston’s Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), Joseph Bonavolonta, announced the arrest of a Harvard scientist and two Chinese nationals for hiding alleged ties to China.

AFP reported that US prosecutors charged the chairman of Harvard University’s chemistry and chemical biology department Charles Lieber with hiding his alleged role in a Chinese government programme that security officials say steals trade secrets.

Two other scientists, both Chinese nationals, were also charged as part of an investigation into hundreds of cases of alleged theft by Chinese scientists in the US.

The arrests were widely covered by local media, who broadcast footage from the original press conference.

These allegations were officially presented in a statement of the United States Department of Justice on January 28 as well.

"The Department of Justice announced today that the Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department and two Chinese nationals have been charged in connection with aiding the People’s Republic of China.

Dr. Charles Lieber, 60, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, was arrested this morning and charged by criminal complaint with one count of making a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement. Lieber will appear this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts.

Yanqing Ye, 29, a Chinese national, was charged in an indictment today with one count each of visa fraud, making false statements, acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy. Ye is currently in China.

Zaosong Zheng, 30, a Chinese national, was arrested on Dec. 10, 2019, at Boston’s Logan International Airport and charged by criminal complaint with attempting to smuggle 21 vials of biological research to China.  On Jan. 21, 2020, Zheng was indicted on one count of smuggling goods from the United States and one count of making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements. He has been detained since Dec. 30, 2019," the statement read.

Virus not man-made

AFP reports that experts have refuted the theory that the new coronavirus was deliberately created. In a letter published in The Lancet medical journal, various public health scientists said that the virus “originated in wildlife”.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries ... overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens,” it reads.

Scientists at the Ohio State University in the US also published a paper concluding there was “no credible evidence” that the new coronavirus was engineered in a laboratory.



Source Panorama.am
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