美联社:中国宣扬关于新冠病毒起源和疫苗的阴谋论

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美联社:中国宣扬关于新冠病毒起源和疫苗的阴谋论

记者:HUIZHONG WU2021年1月25日

中国政府媒体煽动人们对辉瑞新冠疫苗的担心,尽管严格的临床试验表明它是安全的。一名政府发言人提出没有根据的理论,声称新冠病毒可能是来自于美国军事实验室,让这种说法在中国显得可信。

在执政的共产党面临越来越多的关于中国疫苗的疑问和新一轮对其早期新冠疫情处理的批评时,它通过鼓励阴谋论来反击,专家们认为这会带来损害。

政府媒体和官员在挑起人们对西方疫苗和新冠病毒起源的疑问,明显是试图转移攻击。这两个问题引起了关注,是因为疫苗正在全球推广,以及世界卫生组织专家团队最近抵达中国武汉要调查新冠病毒的起源。

这些阴谋论在中国国内找到了受众。在上周一名中国外交部发言人要求世界卫生组织调查美国马里兰州的生物武器实验室后,由共青团发起的社交媒体标签“美国德特里克堡”被阅读了至少14亿次。

“其目的是把疫情早期中国政府处理不当的责任转嫁给美国的阴谋。”现在住在美国的作家方舟子说,他以揭露中国科学界的假学位和其他造假闻名,“由于在中国泛滥的反美情绪,这个战术很成功。”

英国利兹大学中国媒体专家曾源说,政府的说法传得这么广,甚至她受过很好教育的中国朋友也问她是不是真的。

她说,在政府试图消除关于疫苗的担心时,煽风点火的怀疑和广为传播的阴谋论可能会增加公共健康的风险,“那是非常、非常危险的。”

最新一轮的攻击是,政府媒体呼吁调查挪威23名老人在接种辉瑞疫苗之后死亡一事。中央电视台英文台CGTN的一名主持人以及《环球时报》都指责西方媒体无视这则新闻。

健康专家说,在大规模接种疫苗时,有可能发生与疫苗无关的死亡,而世界卫生组织一个委员会的结论认为辉瑞疫苗并没有导致这些挪威老人的死亡。

政府媒体的这一报道,是在巴西研究人员发现中国疫苗的有效性比以前宣布的低之后出现的。巴西研究人员一开始说科兴疫苗的有效率为78%,但是在包括了症状更轻的病例之后,有效率修正为50.5%。

在巴西的消息公布之后,澳大利亚战略政策研究所——一个政府支持的智库——的研究人员报告说,中国媒体关于疫苗的虚假信息增多了。

在健康和科普博客以及其他地方,有几十篇网文长篇质疑辉瑞疫苗的有效性,依据的是本月《英国医学杂志》发表的一篇评论对辉瑞疫苗临床试验数据的质疑。(译按:那篇评论是《英国医学杂志》博客上自媒体的文章,不是正式发表的评论。)

中国疫苗有效性低让中国政府“非常难堪”,方舟子在电子邮件中说,因此中国通过质疑辉瑞疫苗来保住脸面和推行自己的疫苗。

中国政府高级官员理直气壮地质疑西方医药公司研发的信使RNA疫苗。它们采用的技术要比中国目前使用的传统技术研发的疫苗更新。

去年12月,中国疾控中心主任高福说,他不能排除信使RNA疫苗的副作用。他说,这是它们第一次被用到健康人身上,“有安全性顾虑。”

辉瑞信使RNA疫苗和由莫德纳公司研发的另一款信使RNA疫苗都通过了动物实验和人类试验,在7万多人身上做过试验。

世界卫生组织代表团的到来再次引发了人们对中国在疫情早期响应缓慢让病毒传播到全世界的批评,当时中国政府甚至训诫试图警告公众的医生。到访的研究人员在结束14天隔离之后将于本周开始田间调查。

澳大利亚战略政策研究所高级分析师Jacob Wallis说,共产党认为世界卫生组织的调查有政治风险,因为它把注意力集中在中国对疫情的响应上。

共产党“企图预先歪曲关于新冠病毒病爆发的责任的说法,转移国内外受众的注意。”Wallis说。

中国外交部发言人华春莹在上周开始了这一企图,把此前中国呼吁世界卫生组织调查美国军事实验室的要求再次提了出来。

政府媒体介绍了该实验室过去发生的丑闻,但是中国并没有给出支持其新冠病毒理论的可靠证据。

“如果美方真的尊重事实,就请开放德特里克堡基地,并就美海外200多个生物实验室等问题公开更多事实,请世卫组织专家去美国开展溯源调查,”华春莹说。

她的评论经政府媒体发表后,成为新浪微博上最热门的话题之一。

中国政府并不是唯一一个对此指指点点的政府。美国前总统川普去年试图转移对其政府处理疫情不当的谴责时,也曾经说他看到了病毒是从武汉实验室传出的证据。尽管这个可能性没有被完全排除,许多专家认为不太可能。

(翻译:方舟子)

China pushes conspiracy theories on COVID origin, vaccines

By HUIZHONG WUJanuary 25, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China.

As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China’s vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm.

State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect the attacks. Both issues are in the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus.

Some of these conspiracy theories find a receptive audience at home. The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for a WHO investigation of the biological weapons lab in Maryland.

“Its purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the U.S.,” said Fang Shimin, a now-U.S.-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science. “The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.”

Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true.

Inflaming doubts and spreading conspiracy theories might add to public health risks as governments try to dispel unease about vaccines, she said, saying, “That is super, super dangerous.”

In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news.

Health experts say deaths unrelated to the vaccine are possible during mass vaccination campaigns, and a WHO panel has concluded that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role” in the Norway deaths.

The state media coverage followed a report by researchers in Brazil who found the effectiveness of a Chinese vaccine lower than previously announced. Researchers initially said Sinovac’s vaccine is 78% effective, but the scientists revised that to 50.4% after including mildly symptomatic cases.

After the Brazil news, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-supported think tank, reported seeing an increase in Chinese media disinformation about vaccines.

Dozens of online articles on popular health and science blogs and elsewhere have explored questions about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine at length, drawing on an op-ed published this month in the British Medical Journal that raised questions about its clinical trial data.

“It’s very embarrassing” for the government, Fang said in an email. As a result, China is trying to raise doubts about the Pfizer vaccine to save face and promote its vaccines, he said.

Senior Chinese government officials have not been shy in voicing concerns about the mRNA vaccines developed by Western drug companies. They use a newer technology than the more traditional approach of the Chinese vaccines currently in use.

In December, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said he can’t rule out negative side effects from the mRNA vaccines. Noting this is the first time they are being given to healthy people, he said, “there are safety concerns.”

The Pfizer mRNA vaccine and another one developed by Moderna have passed both animal and human trials in which they were tested on more than 70,000 people.

The arrival of the WHO mission has brought back persistent criticism that China allowed the virus to spread globally by reacting too slowly in the beginning, even reprimanding doctors who tried to warn the public. The visiting researchers will begin field work this week after being released from a 14-day quarantine.

The Communist Party sees the WHO investigation as a political risk because it focuses attention on China’s response, said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The party wants to “distract domestic and international audiences by pre-emptively distorting the narrative on where responsibility lies for the emergence of COVID-19,” Wallis said.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying got the ball rolling last week by reviving earlier Chinese calls for a WHO investigation of the U.S. military lab.

State media have referenced past scandals at the lab, but China has given no reliable evidence to support the coronavirus theory.

“If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Hua said.

Her comments, publicized by state media, became one of the most popular topics on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

China isn’t the only government to point fingers. Former U.S. President Donald Trump, trying to deflect blame for his government’s handling of the pandemic, said last year he had seen evidence the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory. While that theory has not been definitively ruled out, many experts think it is unlikely.

(XYS20210131)

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