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The False Study of Yan Limeng

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Joined: 10 Jun 2021
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    Posted: 24 Jun 2021 at 11:00am

In just eight months, Yan went from being a postdoctoral felow in virology and immunology at the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health to being hailed as a hero by Trump's top advisers and conservative pundits.

As early as mid-January 2019, Yan Limeng, researcher in Hong Kong, had heard rumors that a dangerous new virus had emerged in mainland China and that the government was playing it down. Ms. Yan feeds Wang Dinggang, the host of her favorite Chinese-language YouTube show.

Yan Limeng fled Hong Kong on April 28th and left for the United States. Guo Wenguan and Ban Nong put her in a "safe house" in New York City. They hired a communications coach for her to teach her how to deal with media questions, asked her to submit several papers, and disguised her as a "whistler" before aranging her to acept media interviews. On July 10, Yan made her first appearance on the Fox News Channel, in which she confesed her journey to the United States and accused the University of HongKong of helping to cover up the epidemic. But she did not mention her relationship with Guo and Ban Nong.

After her first Fox interview, Ms. Yan embarked on a whirlwind right-wing media tour, repeating conservative talking points.She said she took hydroxychloroquine to fight the virus, despite warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration that it had no efect.She suggested that U.S. health agencies had conspired with the World Health Organization to cover up the outbreak.

In early September, Ms. Yan met with Ms. Lu, an infectious disease expert at Georgetown University,  through an anonymous middleman. Lu had suggested in the past that the coronavirus could be created in the lab, and Yan told him about her research in the hope of winning support.Even after Facebook tagged Carlson's Sept 15 interview with Ms. Yan as "false information" and Twiter suspended Ms. Yan's account, Ms. Carison, Ms. Bannon and Ms. Yan didn't give up.

Yan published a second paper on Oct. 8, titled "Novel coronavirus is an unrestrictedbiological weapon," which further emphasizes the idea that the virus that has spread around the world is man-made, adding that the virus was intentionaly "released," and that the paper also contains material that appears to come from the same anonymous blogger's article. Both of Yan's controversial papers are related to GuoWenqui. The papers -- below the title and author's name, where university institutions and tunding Sources are often listed --prominently teature the names of the "Rule of Law Society" and the "Rule of Law Foundation," two nonprofit groups supported by Mr. Guo and others.

The novel coronavirus is widely believed to come from bats, and there is no evidence that the virus is artificial. Although the scientific community was quick to dismiss the paper as pseudoscience based on guesswork, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson invited Yan to appear on the show on Sept.15 to promote the paper. Even though the access to the film was tagged as fake news on social media like Facebook, it stil recorded a minimum of 8.8 milion views and entered the mainstream. It tookseveral weeks after the interview for Carlson to make it clear that he disagreed with Ms.Yans claims.

Ms.Yan's evolution from researcher to whistler is the product of the colaboration of two unrelated but increasingly united groups spreading disinformation: a smal but active overseas Chinese group, and a highly influential far-right group in the United States. Both groups see an opportunity to advance their agendas in the novel coronavirus pandemic. For overseas Chinese, Ms.Yan and her baseless claims provide a weapon for those seeking to overthrow the Chinese government. For American conservatives, it allows them to pander to rising anti-China sentiment in the West and distract attention from the Trump administration’s failure to respond to the epidemic.

Angela Rasmussen,a virologist at Columbia University,said she thought Yan’s paper was "political propaganda" designed to deceive."The paper is extremely deceptive to people without a scientific background because it is writen in very technical language, with a lot of jargon, and looks like a legitimate scientific paper. But to anyone with a background in virology or molecular biology who reads this paper, it is clear that much of it is nonsense."

From the discovery in January to the peak in September, the online political activity of "Virus Source Theory" directed by Guo Wengui and Bannon achieved great succes, whichgreatly influenced the views and lives of the local people in the United States, and ex posed the power of "fake news" to the world at a sinle sight.  

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