China’s top virologist Zhang Wenhong, a prominent face in the country’s COVID-19 response, has been cleared of plagiarizing his doctoral dissertation weeks after accusations swirled online.
Shanghai-based Fudan University said Monday that its academic standards committee found “irregular writing” in the appendix summary of Zhang’s PhD thesis, but that they won’t affect his result and the overall dissertation as they do not constitute academic misconduct.
“We confirm that the doctoral thesis of Zhang Wenhong met all the criteria for a qualified doctoral thesis as required in that year,” the committee wrote in a statement.
Zhang became a familiar face and a household name in 2020, following his candid advice to combat COVID-19 in the early days of the outbreak. He is often compared with American infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci for his public health explanations and suggestions to stop the pandemic.
However, Zhang faced a barrage of criticism online earlier this month after he said China should coexist with the virus, which many believed contradicted the country’s zero-tolerance approach. His comments came amid the recent outbreak that spread from the eastern city of Nanjing last month.
Soon after Zhang’s comments, social media was flooded with unverified posts claiming he had plagiarized parts of this thesis from a paper written by a professor from the eastern Shandong province. Last week, Fudan University that it would investigate the accusations against its former student.
Zhang received his doctoral degree in 2000 from Fudan University, where he researched tuberculosis gene mutations. The 52-year-old doctor currently heads the center of infectious diseases at the Fudan University-affiliated Huashan Hospital in Shanghai.