A leading infectious diseases expert known as “China’s Dr Fauci” is under investigation by a university after drawing ire in recent weeks for saying the country might have to learn to live with Covid, Louise Watt reports.
Zhang Wenhong is an infectious diseases expert from Shanghai who has more than 3.5 million followers on social media and became a household name during the pandemic because of his regular media appearances.
Late last month, he wrote on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, that “the world needs to learn how to coexist with this virus,” contradicting China’s policy of trying to stamp out any trace of it.
In what was seen as an official rebuke, the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily published an editorial by a former health minister that argued it was important to double down on controlling the virus, and that Britain, the US and other Western nations had “blindly lifted or relaxed” measures at the expense of people’s health.
Following that, Dr Zhang was criticised on Chinese social media for “pandering to foreigners” and shunning China’s way of dealing with the pandemic for a Western one. Over the weekend, Dr Zhang, 52, faced new online accusations, this time that he had plagiarised part of his doctoral thesis.
Shanghai’s Fudan University on Sunday said it had noticed the online discussions involving Dr Zhang and that it was launching an investigation into the accusations, and would announce the results “in a timely manner”. Some commentators online suggested Dr Zhang had become a victim of “nationalism”.
China has a “zero tolerance” strategy of dealing with Covid that involves quarantining every case, largely closing off its borders, and carrying out mass testing and enacting sweeping, costly lockdowns when a few new cases are found.