FALSE: FBI arrest of China-backed Professor was linked to Coronavirus


FBI Arrest of China-backed Professor was linked to Coronavirus


Claim: An arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of a professor who had ties to China is connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

Several posts on Facebook made the claim that the FBI arrested a Boston University professor who “was [connected] with a Chinese university and research laboratory in Wuhan.” These posts also said: “Now it is very close to clear [sic] that coronavirus is a bio attack planned and conducted by China.”


Further, the text said that a Chinese expert made assurances that the inhalation of steam from hot water kills the coronavirus, because the virus “cannot stand” hot water steam.

These posts were flagged by Facebook Claim Check, a tool that detects posts with potentially false information. The same claim was also circulated via group chats in Facebook Messenger.

Rating: FALSE

The facts: The charges against the professor linked to the university in Wuhan, China had nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.

The text being circulated attempted to associate his arrest with the assertion that the virus was a planned bio-attack. However, the two had no connection.

For one, the FBI arrested a professor from Harvard University, not one from Boston University. On January 28, the FBI arrested and charged Harvard University professor Dr Charles Lieber for allegedly lying about his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Plan and his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology, as well as his acquisition of millions of dollars from the Chinese government for foreign research.

Based on the remarks from the FBI, his charges had no connection to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the FBI cited how Lieber conducted scientific research for China, published articles in the name of Wuhan University, and recruited top international scientists to work for China as visiting scholars. During that time, he was working at Harvard University and receiving millions of dollars in grants funded by taxpayers.

Lieber also signed a 5-year agreement to establish a joint nanoscience research lab between Harvard University and Wuhan University without the former’s knowledge or consent.

On the same day, the FBI also charged two other Chinese nationals who were working to steal scientific research from the United States for China. “US officials said the activity they uncovered is part of an ambitious, years-longeffort by the Chinese government to steal intellectual property and technology to better compete in the global marketplace,” read a report by the Washington Post.

As for the third part of the text, the World Health Organization says there is no specific treatment for the disease caused by the coronavirus. Moreover, Rappler also debunked the claim that salt water steam can cure the coronavirus. It is not included in treatments approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to help ease symptoms.


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