China doubles US baseless Covid conspiracy as Delta outbreak worsens

But last week, Beijing doubled the conspiracy and mobilized its diplomats and giant propaganda machine to demand a World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

In late May, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered American intelligence services to redouble their efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, including the possibility that it emerged from a laboratory accident. The secret services had to report to Biden within 90 days. Since then, no smoking weapon has appeared to support the laboratory leak theory, and many scientists continue to believe that the virus passed from animals to humans more naturally. Right now, senior intelligence officials say they are really split between the two theories.

Beijing has strongly dismissed the idea the coronavirus may have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, claiming that Washington is trying to politicize its origins. And at the same time, it is also aggressively promoting a conspiracy theory against the laboratory leak with no scientific evidence.

Last month, the state-run Global Times launched a campaign asking people to sign an open letter to WHO requesting an investigation into the Fort Detrick laboratory. The letter – which only requires a single click online to “sign” – has since garnered 25 million “signatures” at the University of North Carolina, led by leading US coronavirus expert Ralph Baric.

Zhao also suggested that American military athletes who participated in the World Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019 could have brought the coronavirus to China – reiterating an unsubstantiated claim he made on Twitter in March 2020.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV aired a 30-minute report this week entitled “The Dark History of Fort Detrick.” On Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, a hashtag related to the report was the top trending topic on Tuesday morning. It has been viewed 420 million times since then. On social media, some state and government media accounts spread another baseless theory by an obscure Italian tabloid that claimed the U.S. military spread the coronavirus through a blood donation program in Italy. “Damning evidence! The coronavirus came to Europe from Fort Detrick through a US Army blood donation program, ”was the headline of a well-read story by the Communist Youth League, the youth division of the ruling Communist Party of China.

The concerted propaganda surge has further fueled nationalist anger against the United States. Some Chinese internet users have accused the US of being “shameless” while more and more people are calling Covid a “US virus” – a blow to the term “China virus” used repeatedly by former US President Donald Trump, who lashed Beijing as his government struggled to contain the rising cases and deaths in America.

Beijing’s renewed focus on Fort Detrick comes amid the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant across China. Since July 20, the dramatic outbreak – the worst in more than a year – has infected more than 500 people in dozens of cities, banning millions of residents and placing mass travel restrictions.

The Delta outbreak poses a major challenge to China’s much heralded “zero tolerance” approach to infection, and some prominent Chinese public health experts have suggested that the country must eventually switch to a new strategy and learn about the coronavirus to coexist.

But that probably won’t be an easy switch. In China, public tolerance to infections, even if they are mild, is extremely low and fear of the virus is still high. This is partly because China has so successfully kept Covid-19 at bay, but also because of months of relentless reporting in the state media highlighting the devastation of rampant infections in Western countries.

Since China contained its first outbreak, Beijing has repeatedly blamed the import of coronaviruses from abroad for local flare-ups, either through passengers, frozen foods or other goods. For example, the source of the recent outbreak has been linked to a flight from Russia.

And with the increased focus on Fort Detrick, conspiracy theory has just created another target for those looking to play the guilt game.

Friendship between the USA and China at the Olympics

Between the trade war, military tensions and the coronavirus pointing the finger, US-China relations have been a tough couple of years.

But the Tokyo Olympics enabled athletes from both countries to show what their governments haven’t had for years: friendship.

On Tuesday, Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing won gold and silver, respectively, in the women’s balance beam finals, while US gymnastics star Simone Biles took bronze. Both Chinese gymnasts are Olympic champions for the first time.

The win was especially important to Guan as the 16-year-old identified Biles as her hero, according to her biography on the Games website. After the results were announced, a beaming Biles hugged Guan. Her US teammate and all-round Olympic champion Sunisa Lee, who Guan cheered loudly during her training, also hugged Guan. Lee then posted on Instagram that she was “so proud” of Guan and retweeted a video of Guan’s getting off the bar with the caption, “I love her (so much).”

The enthusiastic celebration and warmth exchanged between the teams – seen so rarely as US-China relations and public opinion turned sour – quickly spread across the internet.

“We feel the same way! It means it,” tweeted the official Chinese Olympic Committee along with a heart emoji and a photo showing the celebration between the four athletes. Even the nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times intervened, saying in an article that Lee’s “sincere and joyous response touched viewers around the world”.

And many on Chinese social media platform Weibo praised Biles and Lee for their athleticism, arguing that the kind of camaraderie they shared with Guan and Tang embodied the true spirit of the Olympics.

“No matter where you come from, what race you belong to, what beliefs you have, people in international society should unite to improve human life,” a Weibo user said, according to state media. “I see this hope in the Olympic Games. These athletes set a good example for us.”

Chinese regulators consider unruly online fans and pop culture shows their next raid targets

Chinese internet and media regulators promise to crack down on “unhealthy” online fan groups as supporters of pop star Kris Wu vehemently defend him against rape allegations on social media.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the disciplinary authority of the ruling Communist Party of China – announced Thursday that the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Internet regulator, shut down 1,300 fan groups, disabled 4,000 online accounts and made more than 150,000 “toxic” comments removed a recent crackdown on “unhealthy” celebrity fan culture.

“The chaos in celebrity fan clubs exposed by the ‘Kris Wu’ incident reflects the bad fan culture has reached a critical moment that needs to be corrected,” the agency said, adding that culture the “fan clubs” are “crazy” and “possessed by the devil.”

“We have to cut off the black hand of the capital – and curb the wild growth of the entertainment industry,” said the agency.

China’s National Radio and Television Bureau – the country’s top media regulator – has stepped up its scrutiny of celebrity media culture, announcing earlier this week that it would spend a month battling celebrity variety shows that they used to cultivate “star” Worship ”.

Wu, one of China’s biggest pop stars, was arrested by Beijing police earlier this month. Authorities said the 30-year-old artist was accused of “repeatedly seducing young women into sex,” adding that the case is still under investigation.

CNN reached out to Wu’s representative earlier this week but received no response. He denied the allegations on his personal Weibo account last month, at which time his company announced it would take legal action against a woman who accused him of assault, calling the allegations “malicious rumors”.

His once very popular social media accounts – including a Weibo account with more than 51 million followers – have been deleted. Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and other major luxury brands also cut ties with him last month when the allegations surfaced.

The incident sparked a fire storm on social media in China. Many on social media expressed their support or thanked a woman who posted under the verified name “Du Meizhu” last month, claiming that she was sexually abused by Wu when she was 17 years old.

But many of Wu’s fans also came to his defense. The disciplinary agency stopped several examples of extreme fan actions, including calls to raise money for Wu’s trial or to get him out of custody.

Thursday’s statement added growing media and online fandom attention, reflecting the government’s longstanding, aggressive desire to regulate fan groups and the entertainment industry. Beijing has long been suspicious of the rise of celebrity worshiping culture and has made it clear that celebrities must be harmless in public in order to remain in their good grace.

Weibo said Monday it had removed or banned nearly 1,500 accounts for “making inappropriate comments” about the Wu incident.

Around Asia

  • Across Southeast Asia, countries with low vaccination rates are now facing their worst coronavirus outbreaks, fueled by the Delta variant – as well as new lockdowns, supply shortages and protests from frustrated citizens.
  • At least 17 people were killed and more than a dozen injured after lightning struck a wedding party on a boat in Bangladesh.
  • Australian Olympians returning home have been criticized for being “loud and disruptive” after drinking too much on the plane – including vomiting in the bathroom and leaving the toilet throughout the flight.
  • Australia will set up a $ 280 million reparations fund for the “stolen generations” in three areas – indigenous children who were forcibly removed from their families during the country’s colonial days, causing ongoing intergenerational trauma.
  • The alleged rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl belonging to one of the most oppressed castes in India has sparked a judicial investigation into the incident after five days of protests in the state capital.

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