- A “whistleblower” who claims China is responsible for engineering the novel coronavirus in a lab now says her mother has been arrested by Chinese authorities.
- In several interviews, Li-Meng Yan said that the virus was crafted in a lab, without providing any proof that might substantiate her claims.
- Scientists slammed a recent report from the “whistleblower” that explained the purported origin of the virus, saying the paper is reminiscent of COVID-19 conspiracy theories that have already been debunked.
- Twitter has suspended her account, and Facebook is now labeling interviews with the researcher as false information — scientists have already proven the virus evolved naturally in animals before mutating and jumping to humans.
Earlier this year, a Chinese virologist said that she fled Hong Kong to avoid persecution from the Chinese government for the COVID-19 disclosures she was about to make. Dr. Li-Meng Yan made the news several times since then, repeatedly claiming to be a whistleblower who knows the truth about the origin of the novel coronavirus. Yan provided no evidence to substantiate her claims, which read like most of the crackpot COVID-19 conspiracy theories that have been circulating online. Yan then published a paper recently that supposedly demonstrated her claims, but it received no backing from the scientific community.
Despite all that, Yan’s story ought to be known to the public, so people know that she’s more likely to be a conspiracy theorist that some fringe websites might promote, as opposed to an actual whistleblower. And all this time, Yan keeps making wilder claims — the latest one being that China arrested her mother, though she hasn’t provided any proof this time either.
Yan said time and again that China engineered the novel coronavirus in a lab and that she fled Hong Kong to avoid any repercussions from the government. Now she claims that her mother has been arrested as part of an effort to silence her.
While it’s no secret that China has been tight-lipped when it comes to COVID-19, scientists have long provided evidence that the virus evolved naturally in animals before jumping to humans. The US intelligence community agrees that those scientific findings are accurate. The virus wasn’t engineered by humans, contrary to what conspiracy theories have claimed. China has often denied claims that the virus was made in a lab or even that it escaped from one, though it hasn’t offered any explanation of the source of the virus. A joint China-WHO investigation into the matter is forthcoming.
Twitter has already suspended Yan’s account due to her baseless allegations. An interview with Yan featured on Tucker Carlson Tonight is now marked as false information on Facebook, which says that “this post repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false.”
Researchers who saw Yan’s study that supposedly demonstrates the origin of the novel coronavirus slammed her report as “unsubstantiated” and said it “cannot be given any credibility,” per Daily Mail. Scientists warn that conspiracy theories like Yan’s will do more harm than good at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. University of Southampton’s global health expert Dr. Michael Head told the site that the conspiracy theory from Yan’s report has been “doing the rounds throughout the pandemic.”
“Ultimately, it could be damaging to public health if reported non-critically without looking at the wider evidence,” he told Daily Mail. “’If people are exposed to and then believe conspiracy theories, this will likely have a negative impact on efforts to keep Covid-19 cases low, and thus there will be more deaths and illness than there needs to be.”