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China has an elimination strategy towards the coronavirus. Photo: Bloomberg

University to review plagiarism claims against ‘China’s Dr Fauci’ Zhang Wenhong

  • Critics say a review section in Zhang’s doctoral thesis is very similar to that in another paper
  • Supporter says the accusers are deliberately confusing the issue

One of China’s leading universities is re-examining the doctoral dissertation of a household name in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic after accusations surfaced online about plagiarism.

In a brief statement on Sunday, Shanghai’s Fudan University said it was aware of the online concern and had launched an investigation into the degree it awarded to Zhang Wenhong – often described as “China’s Dr Fauci” – in 2000.

The results of the investigation would be released in a timely manner, the university said.

Zhang is the director of Huashan Hospital’s department of infectious diseases and a member of the Shanghai panel overseeing treatment for Covid-19.

Zhang gained a reputation for his outspoken and down-to-earth discussions about the coronavirus and has been criticised in recent weeks for suggesting that countries will have to find a way to live with Covid-19, an idea that runs counter to China’s zero-tolerance strategy.

The accusations against Zhang surfaced on Saturday when a user on the Twitter-like Weibo platform claimed that the review section of Zhang’s doctoral thesis on mutations in a tuberculosis bacteria gene was similar to that in another paper by Professor Huang Hainan of Qilu Institute of Technology in Shandong province.

The content amounted to about 3,300 of the 70,000 words in the paper.

Huang’s thesis, published in 1998 in the Chinese Journal of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases, had a review with a total of about 3,700 words, according to Changanjie Zhishi, a social media account operated by Beijing Daily.

Professor Yan Feng, from Fudan University’s Chinese literature department, said the accusers had deliberately confused a review and the main body of research, and also deliberately did not talk about the difference between academic norms 20 years ago and today.

“Using this as a tool for the attack, then who will dare to speak out and act according to their professional judgment in the future?” Yan said on his microblogging account.


China under pressure as Nanjing airport coronavirus cluster spreads to 15 cities

China under pressure as Nanjing airport coronavirus cluster spreads to 15 cities

Zhang came under fire late last month when he said that more people were becoming convinced that the pandemic would not end in the short term and probably not in the long term.

“Most virologists in the world now recognise that the virus is a long-term presence and that the world has to learn to live with it,” he said.

“Various countries are coming up with their own answers to how the world can coexist with the virus. China once gave a beautiful answer, and we will surely learn more after the outbreak in Nanjing,” he said, referring to an outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus.

Opponents responded by saying Zhang was “pandering to foreigners” and following the Western model of fighting the epidemic.

Boost vaccination rates to get China borders opened: Zhang Wenhong

Former health minister Gao Qiang criticised countries that had “recklessly” removed or relaxed pandemic controls, and urged Beijing to double down on its effort to eliminate the virus.

“Some experts believe that the approach in Britain and the US to ‘coexist with the virus’ is open, while China’s quarantine control-based approach is closed,” Gao said, without referring directly to Zhang.

“In order to show their dominance and influence, Britain and the US have recklessly lifted or relaxed their epidemic control measures without regard to people’s health and safety.

“Relying solely on the vaccination model to fight the epidemic and pursuing the so-called coexistence with the virus, has led to the re-emergence of the epidemic.”

Some doctors, science commentators and Weibo users spoke out in support of Zhang, hoping to protect the right of Chinese doctors to voice their opinions.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: ‘China’s Dr Fauci’ in plagiarism probe