WILD conspiracy theories have emerged following the apparent murder-suicide of a Chinese-born coronavirus researcher who colleagues claim was close to “significant findings”.
Dr Bing Liu, 37, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds in his Pittsburgh home on Saturday.
Police have identified the gunmen as software engineer Hao Gu, 46, who was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot near Liu’s home.
Homicide detectives say Liu and Gu knew each other, and that Gu carried out a murder-suicide following “a lengthy dispute [with Liu] regarding an intimate partner”.
They said there is “zero evidence” linking Liu’s death to his work at the university or the ongoing global pandemic.
But a statement from Liu’s colleagues remembered him as an exceptional researcher who “was on the verge of making very significant findings” about the working of the coronavirus, and has prompted a number of conspiracy theories online about his death.
One user on Chinese social media platform Weibo wrote: “Oh my god.
“This seems like coming straight out of Mission Impossible.
“Perhaps he found out that the virus originated from an American lab.”
Another wrote that the incident seemed “too coincidental” while a third said there were “likely secrets hidden in the dark”.
A number of regime-backed media outlets as well as government officials in China, where the virus first broke out late last year, have sought to deflect criticism of China’s handling of the pandemic and allegations of an attempted cover-up.
Reports from the earliest stages of the crisis alleged that doctors and journalists were being harassed and detained for trying to raise the alarm.
Rumours on Chinese social media in recent weeks have alleged without evidence that the virus actually broke out in the US, and that the American government is trying to cover up the fact.
Weibo users also speculated that Liu could have been targeted as a Chinese-born scientist working in the US, but again there is no evidence to suggest he was killed because of his ethnicity.
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Liu is survived by his wife and parents.
The statement from his colleagues concluded: “We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence.”