Misleading: Popular coronavirus origin video by Hong Kong legislator consists of unsubstantiated conspiracy claims
Hong Kong pro-establishment legislator Ann Chiang Lai-wan recently posted an eight-minute video on Facebook and YouTube. In the video Chiang challenges the widely-accepted notion that the COVID-19 pandemic started in China by citing a number of misleading or false claims that have been repeatedly debunked.
As of Aug. 25, the post on Facebook had gathered more than 8,000 reactions and more than 2,600 shares, while the same video posted to YouTube had gathered more than 2,700 views and 200 likes.
In an apparent attempt to blame the pandemic on the U.S., for example, Chiang says that Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was aware of the novel coronavirus as early as January 2017.
Her video features a speech given by Fauci in January 2017, days before Donald Trump took office as U.S. president. In the speech, Fauci warns the Trump administration of challenges posed by infectious diseases.
Although the 2017 video clip of Fauci’s speech is an authentic one filmed at Georgetown University during a forum on pandemic preparedness, Chiang distorts the content to form a false conspiracy theory about the origins of the coronavirus.
In her video, she claims Fauci could accurately predict a global-scale outbreak of an infectious disease within Donald Trump’s term, implying that he knew of the coronavirus. But in the video Fauci was talking about the general likelihood of an epidemic given his previous experience advising several U.S. presidents on outbreaks such as H1N1, SARS, and HIV.
Chiang also says Fauci stated an outbreak could arise from an “ongoing” disease, but in the original speech he distinguished chronic infectious diseases that are already known to the public from a possible surprise outbreak.
Fauci went on to say he was certain the Trump administration would face challenges, but this was a general comment based on his 32 years of experience in the field and not evidence that he secretly knew about the upcoming pandemic as Chiang implied.
The consensus in the scientific community is that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus first emerged in China’s Wuhan in late 2019. Although the origin of the virus has not yet been identified, many theories suggesting the U.S. was the initial source have been debunked.
Some experts say initial investigation and existing evidence indicate the outbreak may have started at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, as many of the early detected cases were linked to the market.
Other scientists suggest the original source of the infection may have been brought into the market from outside. Others say the first COVID-19 patient may have been infected as early as November 2019.