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Wuhan Doctor’s Death Shows Risk of Asia’s Fake News Crackdown

  • Six governments detain people for rumors, causing panic
  • Doctor sanctioned for warning of virus passed away Friday
A customer wearing a protective mask walks past the empty shelves of the toilet paper and tissues section of a supermarket in Hong Kong, Feb. 6.

A customer wearing a protective mask walks past the empty shelves of the toilet paper and tissues section of a supermarket in Hong Kong, Feb. 6.

Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg
Updated on

Governments across Asia are stepping up arrests over a growing scourge of misinformation related to the coronavirus outbreak, even as outrage grows in China over how early virus whistleblowers were punished for spreading falsehoods after one of the doctors passed away.

Hong Kong police this week nabbed a part-time security guard at a shopping mall for allegedly writing on social media that multiple staff members had caught a fever and gone on sick leave. The messages “caused panic” and helped “breed paranoia,” police said in a statement on Facebook. The government separately blamed “evil” rumor mongers for fueling a run on goods at supermarkets such as toilet paper and rice.