Chinese virologist Zhang Wenhong is among a slew of recent high-profile targets in a campaign by nationalist web users to harass anyone they deem critical of China’s government and pressure officials and websites to censor them.
They say Zhang undermined Beijing’s zero COVID-19 strategy by suggesting that China must learn to live with the virus. Internet users dug up his 20-year-old thesis and accused him of plagiarism. His alma mater, Fudan University in Shanghai, later said the allegation was false.
Zhang’s case shows the widening scope of China’s keyboard nationalists, who scour the web for posts or individuals they deem unpatriotic or subject to foreign influence. Among their targets are celebrities, scientists, feminists and public figures, who can suffer censorship, blacklisting or loss of income. Frequently, the irate netizens are backed by government agencies that endorse the extrajudicial shaming.