Rumors blaming foreign missionaries visiting local churches in China as the source of the new COVID-19 variant have spread online and it's escalating.
Early this Jan., the Chinese government imposed travel restrictions and border monitoring on provinces affected by the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Following these prevention measures, a post circulated online that was meant to pin the blame on religious activities particularly those attended by visiting missionaries.
On Jan. 12, the identity of the person behind the provocative post was traced to Mr. Kai Lei of Wen Wei Po. He is a reporter for the official state media.
On Jan. 6, Mr. Kai Lei published a post on Weibo, China's social media platform, stating that "missionaries visiting a church near the airport in Beiqiaozhai Village, one of 15 Catholic churches in Gaocheng District, Shijiazhuang City, may have caused the outbreak," per report of China Aid.
China's netizens went on a frenzy prompting CCP officials to halt all religious gatherings and closing all venues intended for religious activities throughout the Hebei province.
On Jan. 8, Beijing, Hebei Province's neighboring city, also followed suit closing 155 religious venues. None of the 840 religious personnel in Beijing, however, was found to be infected by COVID-19.
On Jan. 9, Hebei's provincial officials held a press conference to discuss prevention measures and efforts to combat the latest COVID-19 variant. Concerning online rumors linking the outbreak to the presence of foreigner missionaries in Gaocheng, the officials dismissed it since there's no substantial evidence to prove reporter Kai Lei's suspicions.
Probable Cause for the Spread of Misinformation Against Religious Groups
Statistically, there are over one million Catholics in Hebei province particularly in the Gaocheng District. When the CCP assumed power in the government, some Catholic churches allied with them and declared independence from the Vatican, thus, forming the "Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association."
The rest of the Catholic believers refused to join the association and maintained connections with the Vatican. These groups of believers became known as the "underground church" and have continued to grow both in numbers and faith.
In 2018, both the Meihua Town Government and the Meihua Public Security Bureau of Gaocheng District in Hebei made a proclamation to "govern the power of the underground church according to the law."
False claims and infodemics are widespread online. Sadly, even a national health emergency is used as a smokescreen to cover CCP's agenda to either subject Christ's church in China under the Communist government or suffer consequences.
Blaming Other Foreign Entities
Last year, certain government officials pointed their fingers at the U.S. army as responsible for 'planting the coronavirus' in China, The Scientist News reports.
In mid-October of 2019, 300 U.S. military soldiers were present in Wuhan for the Military World Games.
In February, Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese respiratory specialist, said at a press conference that "though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China."
On March 12, Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, posted on Twitter saying, "When did patient zero begin in U.S.? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!"
This conspiracy theory has also spread in China through one of their biggest social media platforms, Weibo.
Earlier, Chinese authorities blamed Christians for spreading COVID-19 by gathering in the village of Xiao Guozhuang in December last year. A local priest denounced these accusations and said there never was such a gathering because churches in Shijiazhuang area were already prohibited from doing so. Moreover, while there was indeed a Christmas Eve mass, only one person was there to celebrate it - the officiating priest.
Recently, scientists from Wuhan University revealed that the Chinese Communist government reported far less COVID-19 cases than there actually is. According to their findings, the number of real cases is up to three times more than the government chose to reveal, indicating an attempt to suppress truth.
And despite the CCP's attempts to pin the blame on others, reports indicate that there's a growing amount of evidence that COVID-19 really came from China - particularly from a laboratory in Wuhan, the place where it began.