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Sixteen COVID-19 rumors about China

The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, is raging around the world. At this critical moment, falsehoods, rumors and wild conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are circulating on social and traditional media. The world is striving to sift through the lies and obtain scientific facts, and China stands on the front lines fighting against this global “misinfodemic.”

Facts speak louder than words. The Chinese embassy in Germany hereby uses facts to dispel the 16 most common rumors about China amid the pandemic to bring the truth to the public.


Rumor No.1: Novel coronavirus was produced in a laboratory.

Facts: The available evidence indicates that the novel coronavirus originated through natural processes and was not manipulated or produced in a laboratory, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The scientific community has not yet specified an exact natural origin, but reported that the virus is possibly related to bats and pangolins.

In February, Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at Berlin's Charité hospital, and 26 other world famous scientists issued a joint statement in The Lancet, an authoritative academic publication in the medical field, strongly condemning conspiracy theories that suggest COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.


In a study published in Nature Medicine in mid-March, Kristian Andersen, an associate professor of microbiology from Sweden, and other authors concluded that the virus is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.


Gunnar Jeremias, head of the Interdisciplinary Research Group for the Analysis of Biological Risks, University of Hamburg, also rejected the conspiracy theory about the origin of the virus, claiming that it could not be produced even in the world's most advanced laboratory.



Rumor No.2: Novel coronavirus originated from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Facts: The WIV has nothing to do with the origin of the novel coronavirus.

The research facility is a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory that is able to deal with the world’s deadliest pathogens. About 30km from downtown Wuhan, it is impossible for a virus to leak from the P4 lab.

The virus was not leaked from the institute, said Yuan Zhiming, a researcher at the WIV, in an exclusive interview with China Global Television Network (CGTN) on April 18.


The idea that this virus escaped from a lab is just “pure baloney”, said Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and the president of EcoHelath Alliance, a nonprofit organisation based in New York, the US. He made the remarks in an interview with DemocracyNow.

“There was no cultured virus that’s anything related to SARS-CoV-2. So it is just not possible,” said Daszak, who has been working with the WIV for 15 years.


A conspiracy theory about Covid-19 escaping from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology is the Trump administration’s equivalent to the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, said the US correspondents Max Blumenthal and Ajit Singh in an article on thegrayzone.com.



Rumor No.3: Novel coronavirus is a Chinese virus, as it originated in Wuhan.

Facts: According to the WHO, the official name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2. Wuhan is the first place that reported COVID-19 cases, but is not necessarily the source of the virus.

Historically, the place where a virus was first reported has not necessarily been where it originated. For example, the first AIDS cases were reported in the US, but the HIV may have originated in West Africa.


The organization issued best practices for the naming of new human infectious diseases in 2015, noting that disease names may not include geographic locations, cities, countries, people’s names or animal names.



Rumor No.4: China was aware of the outbreak as early as November 2019, but hid the information for 45 days.

Facts: Zhang Jixian, director of the respiratory and critical care medicine department of Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, reported the first three cases of pneumonia of unknown cause on Dec. 27 to local authorities in Wuhan, the first time that Chinese agencies received information about the virus.


The Chinese government issued its first urgent notification on Dec. 31.


Chinese scientists conducted retrospective studies of the first batch of patients infected with the virus in Wuhan, and published their research results in The Lancet on Jan. 24.



Rumor No.5: China’s hiding of information about the virus caused the global pandemic.

Facts: China promptly released epidemic information to the WHO, which can be confirmed by the timeline updated onto the WHO’s website. Initially, there had been no clear answer as to whether the virus could be transmitted from human to human. When it became clear that there was a phenomenon of human-to-human transmission for the novel coronavirus, the Chinese government took the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures against it.


China decided to lock down Wuhan on Jan. 23, when there were 571 confirmed cases in the country, and only 10 cases in the rest of world. China then locked down the whole of Hubei, a province with a population of 60 million, two days later. A month later, patients in China accounted for only 2.2 percent of the 78,811 confirmed cases around the world.

It was actually the Trump administration that downplayed the coronavirus threat until early March.


Rumor No.6: China arrested the “whistleblower” doctor to cover up the epidemic.

Facts: No Chinese doctors were arrested for warning the world about the pandemic, and the doctor that reported the epidemic was actually rewarded.

On Dec. 30, 2019, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at the Central Hospital of Wuhan and a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), posted in one of his WeChat chat groups text messages including “seven SARS cases were confirmed at Huanan fruit and seafood market” and “…Please alert your families to take precautions.” The messages, along with other similar information, led to greater attention and discussions among the public.

On Jan. 3, 2020, a local police station at the Wuhan Public Security Bureau summoned Li for a discussion, issued a letter of reprimand to him and then sent him back to work.

Later, on Jan. 31, Li was diagnosed with novel coronavirus and died on Feb. 7. On the same day, the National Supervisory Commission formed a team to conduct an investigation into issues concerning Li. The investigation team held a press conference and released the results of the probe on March 19. On the same day, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau announced that the reprimand letter was inappropriate and decided to revoke it.


Li was not really a whistleblower amid the pneumonia outbreak, as he did not report it to the disease control and prevention center or health departments. In fact, it was Dr. Zhang Jixian who reported abnormal pneumonia cases to the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 27, 2019. The local government then conducted an investigation and issued the first announcement regarding the epidemic four days later. Zhang was also rewarded by the government.


Rumor No.7: China lied about its confirmed pneumonia cases and fatalities.

Facts: China calculated and reported its confirmed cases and fatalities based on facts.

By April 20, Wuhan had reported a total of 50,333 confirmed cases, with 3,869 fatalities. The death rate, which stood at 7.69 percent, was higher than the global average.

The relatively low number of confirmed cases and deaths can be attributed to the comprehensive and strict measures taken by the Chinese government, including locking down Wuhan. Science, one of the world’s top academic journals, estimated that these measures prevented over 700,000 cases of infection.


In addition, the central government of China sent over 42,000 medical workers to assist Hubei province after the outbreak began, and built two hospitals and 19 makeshift hospitals in Wuhan, which kept suspected cases in quarantine and cut the transmission chain.



Rumor No.8: China manipulated the WHO so that it won’t be blamed for the pandemic.

Facts: It is not possible for the WHO, an independent international organization with 194 member states, to be manipulated.

Within the WHO Headquarters Leadership Team, only one member is from China - Ren Minghui, who has served as WHO's Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases since January 2016, and 11 members are from either the U.S., Europe or Canada.


Before it froze funding for the WHO, the U.S. was the largest contributor to the international organization, while China only ranked 6th, if voluntary donations are included.


The WHO expert team is made up of specialists in medicine and public health. The team members have rich experience in dealing with infectious diseases and use science, evidence and professional knowledge in their work.

Nearly all member states, not just China, give their backing to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, and it is groundless to say that he was elected because of China’s support.



Rumor No.9: Chinese prevented Taiwan from being a member of the WHO, which endangered the health of the people in Taiwan.

Facts: Taiwan, as a part of China, has no right to join the WHO, which is only meant for sovereign states. However, technological cooperation between Taiwan and the WHO is fully supported.

As agreed by the Chinese government and the WHO, Taiwan has established an office under the International Health Regulations and is able to access information on public health emergencies issued by the organization.

From the beginning of 2019 to March 2020, a total of 24 Taiwan experts have taken part in the 16 sessions of technological meetings held by the WHO.

By April 13, the mainland had shared epidemic information with Taiwan 127 times, and in January, helped Taiwan experts to conduct investigations in Wuhan to learn about treatment methods.

Taiwan reported 426 confirmed cases and six deaths by April 23.


Rumor No.10: Taiwan warned the WHO about how the novel coronavirus can be transmitted between humans on Dec. 31, 2019, but the WHO didn’t take it seriously.

Facts: Taiwan didn’t warn the WHO and simply asked the organization for information.

On Dec. 31, 2019, after Wuhan announced the pneumonia pandemic, Taiwan’s health department asked the National Health Commission about it and received a written reply.

Later on that day, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control sent an e-mail to the WHO requesting more information. The e-mail merely cited information from the mainland, but didn’t mention anything about transmission between humans.

The WHO has clarified repeatedly that Taiwan did not give any warning and merely asked for information.


Taiwan reported its first confirmed case on Jan. 21 and didn’t have information about clinical cases until then, let alone conclude that the virus could be transmitted between humans.


Rumor No.11: China is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic and must compensate the world.

Facts: Viruses are the common enemy of mankind, and China, like any other country, is a victim. There is no legal basis for demanding "compensation" from China.

Under International Law, a state is accused of "state responsibility" for a particular damage if it has committed an "internationally wrongful act", that is, an act that violates its international obligations. In this fight against the epidemic, China has taken timely and effective measures to fulfill its international obligations (see "Rumor No.5").


The WHO announced on Jan. 30 that the novel coronavirus epidemic was a "public health emergency of international concern” one month after China first notified it of the epidemic, which fully shows that China did not delay in fulfilling its reporting obligations.


Rumor No.12: China is helping other countries fight the epidemic only to expand its geopolitical influence.

Facts: China helps other countries out of a sense of humanitarianism and gratitude, and also because it has accumulated useful experience in fighting the epidemic.

The virus knows no national boundaries and does not differentiate between skin color or language. China helps other countries in the fight against the epidemic not only in the spirit of international humanitarianism, but also in the firm belief of a community with a shared future for mankind.

China's help to other countries is also a manifestation of the Chinese nation's tradition of gratitude. At the end of January and the beginning of February this year, when China was at the height of the epidemic, many countries around the world, including Germany, gave China selfless assistance. The Chinese merely want to "return the favor".

China has accumulated useful experience in the course of its fight against the epidemic. After two months of strict prevention and control measures, the epidemic in China has basically been brought under control.


Rumor No.13: All medical products imported from China are fake or shoddy.

Facts: China conducts strict quality testing of its exported medical products. Some of the problems stem from improper use or differences in Chinese and foreign standards.

On April 2, the Chinese government issued a policy to strengthen quality control over the export of medical goods. Such goods are required not only to obtain the relevant qualifications from the national medical products regulatory authority, but also to meet the quality requirements of the importing country.

Media hype over the quality defects of Chinese medical products has been found to be mainly due to different standards in China and Europe. In addition, there are also some institutions that do not strictly abide by the rules for the use of articles and other factors.


Rumor No.14: China is using the novel coronavirus to paralyze the Western economy.

Facts: China's economy is closely linked to the world economy. Only when the world economy is running well can China's economy flourish.

China's economy has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, shrinking 6.8 percent in January-March of this year from the previous year, the lowest since China began collecting quarterly GDP data in 1992.

Since China's accession to the WTO in 2001, China's economy has become more and more closely integrated with the world economy. Last year, China’s total foreign trade volume reached 31.5 trillion yuan ($4.6 trillion), of which exports made up 17.2 trillion yuan, accounting for about 18 percent of total economic output. China and the world are interdependent, and the rapid recovery and steady growth of the world economy is in China's interests.


Rumor No.15: China has reopened its wildlife markets.

Facts: There are no so-called "wildlife markets" in China, and the country has put a comprehensive ban on the illegal activities of hunting, trading, transportation and consumption of wild animals.

On Feb. 24, the 16th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress adopted the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to Comprehensively Prohibit the Illegal Trade of Wild Animals, Break the Bad Habit of Excessive Consumption of Wild Animals, and Effectively Secure the Life and Health of the People. The WWF expressed its appreciation over the decision.


Wuhan has reopened its traditional farmers' markets, selling fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood and meat, and are strictly abiding by the relevant hygiene regulations, which is no different from European fish markets and fruit and vegetable markets.


Rumor No.16: Chinese people eat bat soup, which is why they caught the novel coronavirus.

Facts: Bats are not Chinese food, and there is no conclusive evidence that the novel coronavirus originated from bats.

The claim that Chinese people all drink bat soup is as absurd as claiming that all Germans eat sow's stomach. Bats have never been a source of food for the Chinese.


A video of a Chinese person eating bat soup went viral online following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. The truth is that the video was originally filmed in 2016, and shows popular blogger and travel show host Mengyun Wang during a trip to Palau, an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean.


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