The supposed Swiss biologist, named Wilson Edwards, dominated Chinese state-backed media at the end of July. According to reports, Edwards claimed that he talked to an unnamed World Health Organization's (WHO) insider who said that the U.S. was intimidating the WHO to open another investigation into the COVID-19 virus's origin.
In response to this, Swiss diplomats started searching for the biologist only to find that he did not exist.
On August 10, the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing stated that there were no registered citizens named "Wilson Edwards." In addition, they could also not find any biology papers published under that name.
"If you exist, we would like to meet you!" the embassy wrote in a post, in both English on Twitter and in Chinese on Weibo.
In the same tweet, the embassy also stated that any articles about "Wilson Edwards" were fake news and asked Chinese state media outlets to remove these articles.
The story about "Edwards" has since been removed from China's English-language broadcaster CGTV as well as other Chinese state-backed outlets. However, CGTV's Chinese article could still be accessed as of Monday, Aug. 16.
In addition, a Facebook account that the Chinese news reports had used as a source of information on "Edwards" has also been taken down. According to Swiss diplomats, the account only had one post and three friends since it had been opened on July 24.
Said Facebook account had described "Edwards" as a Swiss biologist. His post stated that the push for the WHO's second phase investigation into COVID-19's origins was the "result of political pressure from the U.S."
The Chinese articles came after the WHO announced last month a proposal for a phase-two origins investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
The new investigation is set to include an audit of the Wuhan lab and research institutions where the virus was identified. The WHO said that the Chinese government did not share raw patient data during their initial probe. Meanwhile, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Beijing to "be transparent, to be open and co-operate." (Related: WHO chief FINALLY admits it was premature to discount lab leak theory.)
In response, Beijing has rejected calls for an unsupervised investigation into SARS-CoV-2's origins. Top Chinese health officials have also asked the WHO to "get rid of political interference."
China's deputy health minister Zeng Yixin also stated that the calls showed a "disrespect for common sense and arrogance toward science."
It was after these that the supposed report from the so-called biologist "Edwards" came out, citing a source at the WHO saying that the United States was "attacking" Beijing in its calls to trace the virus' origin.
But "Edwards'" supposed report wasn't the only effort by China to sow doubt about the lab-leak theory that claims that there is growing evidence that SARS-CoV-2 originated from a Wuhan lab.
A recent report by the Center for Information Resilience (CIR) found that a Chinese group has attempted to sow doubts about the lab-leak theory on various social media platforms.
"Our research shows evidence of a deliberate effort to distort international perceptions on significant issues – in this case, in favor of China," said the report's author Benjamin Strick.
"The aim of the network appears to be to delegitimize the West by amplifying pro-Chinese narratives," he added.
In addition, Strick pointed out that there were "overlaps" in the narratives shared by the group to those shared by the social media accounts of Chinese state representatives and state-linked media. This looks to be further evidence that Beijing is behind all these efforts to spread fake news about the virus' origins.
Follow Pandemic.news for more on the true origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.