From Bill Gates to Freemasons, All Involved in COVID-19 Vaccine Become Targets of Conspiracy Theories on Weibo in China

As new cases of SARS-CoV-2 continue to surge in Beijing, Chinese social media users are increasingly believing in conspiracy theories

While Mainland China reported 27 new Coronavirus cases on Friday, 22 of them were reported in the Chinese capital Beijing, said China's National Health Commission on Saturday. As the virus resurfaces in China, theories started emerging claiming that secretive brotherhoods, financiers, and frozen fish are culprits behind the COVID-19 second wave.

Billionaire Bill gates to Norwegian salmon all have been blamed for the spike in Beijing Coronavirus cases as nationalistic conspiracy theories are allowed to flourish in Chinese social media. In a Weibo post on Sunday, Gates was attacked which was later deleted from the platform. In the post, it was claimed that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese lab, backed by the Microsoft co-founder. A number of posts over the past week also blamed the Freemasons, secretive fraternal organization as the source of the outbreak.

One of the Weibo posts claimed that in Wuhan and Beijing, the outbreaks started from food markets, and stated, "The initiator took advantage of such crowded places and careless mindsets. These terrible American Freemasons are determined to wipe out the Chinese." Last week, another Weibo post claimed, "Bill Gates has been criticized to death for Coronavirus. Why doesn't anyone suspect Soros?"

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Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates Reuters

It was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Zhao Lijian who earlier promoted the theory that the virus may have been intentionally transplanted to Wuhan by the U.S. military. This claim by a Chinese official led people to speculate on social media about the source of the virus.

As per the Financial Times, Florian Schneider, director of the Leiden Asia Centre in the Netherlands said that there is a conflagration of nationalist sentiments and conspiracy thinking, fuelled by official media reporting. "The party and state have already set the stage and provided the communicative resources for citizens to now interpret the crisis through a nationalist lens," he added.

Beijing Coronavirus Surge: The True and False

The number of Beijing Coronavirus cases, linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, increased since June 12 but as per the Chinese authorities, the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak is now under control. The authorities claimed that the virus was found on cutting boards used to prepare imported salmon fish. Earlier, Global Times reported the officials claimed that the new Coronavirus Outbreak may have imported from Europe.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officers later sought to dispel the rumor, noting that no traces of SARS-CoV-2 had been detected on salmon outside the market. But it was too late as the Weibo users were mostly convinced with conspiracy theories on how the virus had been exported from Norway through frozen salmon.

Conspiracy Theories Are All Over the Social Media

Wuhan Coronavirus
Coronavirus Twitter / Imran Iftikhar

Many victims of the conspiracy theories on social media began speculating that the Coronavirus pandemic that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan may have been imported from a foreign country. These theories support the Chinese government's claims that the SARS-CoV-2 may have originated outside their country.

A user called Mydad on Chinese microblogging site Weibo wrote that "Coronavirus found on salmon: is that to say, the first case in Wuhan was also not from wild meat but imported seafood? Who first accused the Chinese of eating wild animal meat?"

State-Run Media

When the state-run news organizations highlighted the fact that imported fish could be contaminated, grocery stores and restaurants removed all the salmons, while frozen fish was removed from several foreign grocers on Thursday in Beijing. The conspiracy theories even forced China's online marketplace Taobao to stop selling salmon.

It is a fact that social media in China is closely monitored by Chinese authorities. Earlier, there were several incidents when the government removed social media posts, criticizing or attacking the Chinese Communist Party. But now the posts related to conspiracy theories mostly left untouched on Weibo.

Last Sunday, Bill Gates was attacked in a post alleging that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese lab backed by the Microsoft co-founder. It was later deleted from the platform.

As per King-wa Fu, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre, the conspiracy theories on Chinese social media are increasing day by day. But Fu said as the COVID-19 is unprecedented, such information "tends to circulate in times of uncertainty — not just in China but around the world."

Related topics : Coronavirus