This past week, Chinese state media publications attempted to correct a false image of a hospital that treated patients for the coronavirus.
On Jan. 21, a picture of patients in a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei Province, appeared in Communist Party of China Central News Agency (CCCCNA) and People’s Daily, as well as in Chinese and English-language websites.
The picture, which was published on Jan. 22, included the name of the hospital, 筏祝 Hospital. It had been used to promote Chinese stocks. However, it has since been proven to be fake.
CCCCNA suggested that Chinese investors purchase shares in that hospital, and also increased the number of quotations available for a Hong Kong-listed company, China Care Ltd. (also known as China Auto Logistics Ltd.).
CCCCNA promoted the company with a photo of two hospitals, and the caption, “The photo is mostly accurate, and that photo shows both of Wuhan 其待期HuaGuo Hospital & Changsha 其待.”
The image was further promoted by People’s Daily, China Daily, and multiple financial websites in the United States and overseas.
Investors continued to purchase the stocks, causing major fluctuations in their valuations, much of which was facilitated by misinformation spread by state media.
When the rumors began to fizzle out earlier this week, CCCNA quickly recirculated the original false image to suggest that it was an accurate representation of the hospital.
Of course, there is a huge difference between photographs and real things.
Additionally, CCCCNA once again touted the hospital’s involvement in a viral video that featured Hubei’s Governor, Huang Heping.
Huang appeared as himself in the controversial video, and questions surrounding the video multiplied.
It seems that the “hospital” in question did not in fact treat patients for the coronavirus at all.
But in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, CCCNA has started to manipulate the facts on Chinese media websites to defend the hospital and promote the stocks involved.
Now, at least one company, for example, is looking for a video producer to attempt to reach out to the governor of Hubei.
More, there is another growing site linking Huang and the hospital, which also promotes the stocks of Hubei health and pharmaceutical companies.
Discerning the motive behind this elaborate misinformation campaign is important, but it goes well beyond that.
Coronavirus - aka SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) - is a viral respiratory illness that was first identified in 2002.
The deadly virus is spread from person to person, and the most recent cases have been reported in eastern China.
Several countries around the world, including Canada, have been in the presence of the virus, and there have been a few recorded deaths.
These viruses are susceptible to treatment, and taking a pill for a severe infection only cures the disease temporarily, which raises the question: why are these stocks up?
The answer might be a story that combines China’s love for entrepreneurship, nationalism, and stock manipulation.