Cases of the H7N9 avian flu in China have garnered a lot of attention on the nation’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, Weibo. While official profiles on Weibo have been posting updates on the condition of those affected and on preventive measures, one senior military officer has sparked online outrage with comments suggesting the flu is an American conspiracy.
People’s Liberation Army Colonel Dai Xu posted comments on his Weibo account blaming the U.S. for purposely creating hysteria about not only the spread of the bird flu but also the SARS pandemic of 10 years ago.
His post, which was later revised without the final sentence, read:
“The national leadership should not pay too much attention to it. Or else, it’ll be like in 2003 with SARS! At that time, America was fighting in Iraq and feared that China would take advantage of the opportunity to take other actions. This is why they used bio-psychological weapons against China. All of China fell into turmoil and that was exactly what the US wanted. Now, the US is using the same old trick. China should have learned its lesson and should calmly deal with the problem. Only a few will die, but that’s not even a one-thousandth of those who die in car crashes in China.”
According to the South China Morning Post, Dai’s post was shared more than 30,000 times over the weekend, and it received mostly criticism.
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“In that case, the invention of cars by the U.S. and Germany must have been an even greater conspiracy,” he said.
As many have noted in the past, Beijing’s government failed miserably in containing the SARS epidemic because it attempted to cover up the extent of the disease's contagion, risking the lives of those in mainland China as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan; thousands were infected and several hundred died. Beijing was hit the hardest.
Now, it seems, the government has learned from its mistake and is taking a much more open approach to the bird flu situation, reporting cases of infections and deaths and giving up-to-date information through various official outlets, perhaps driven by the growing "watchdog" of social media.
Colonel Dai, however, believes that the national attention H7N9 is receiving is part of America’s plan.
Though many have called for Dai to apologize for his insensitive and unproven statements, the officer has not backed down.
“It is common knowledge that a group of people in China have been injected with mental toxin [sic] by the U.S.,” he wrote. “I will not retreat even half a step,” he added in a different post in which he also called Americans “devils.”
While Dai holds fast on his position that H7N9 is a bio-psychological weapon against China, Luo Changping, the deputy editor of Caijing magazine, says his statements are not representative of the military and are disrespectful to those who have died. On Saturday, in response to Dai's post, Luo said that a “vast majority” of PLA officers would not endorse Dai’s call to ignore the virus or that the U.S. is behind it. He added, “Mr. Dai must step down and apologize to the families of the deceased.”