Prof draws criticism for sharing 'Wuhan Plague' picture on social media

A University of New Mexico professor posted images on Facebook referring to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan Plague."

One student said that the post amounted to “vilification of the people of China.”

A University of New Mexico professor was accused of racism after posting on his personal Facebook page images that attributed the spread of the coronavirus to the Chinese government. 

Professor Douglas Fields drew criticism from some students at the school after posting images on his personal Facebook page, including one that referred to the virus as the “Wuhan plague.”

KRQE reported that Fields posted a picture of a medal depicting the children’s cartoon character Winnie The Pooh picking up a bat with chopsticks.  An inscription on that medal reads “Wuhan Plague,” referring to the city in China where the coronavirus originated. 

The depiction of a bat being eaten with chopsticks refers to one theory as to how the coronavirus pandemic began: poorly prepared bat soup, which is popular in parts of China.

Some students believed that the images, likely intended to criticize the Chinese government, amounted to “vilification of the people of China,” KRQE reported. 

In response, students expressed support for the university to create an “Asian Resource Center.”

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Images depicting Winnie the Pooh became popular amongst Chinese dissidents and critics of the Chinese Communist Party after the film Christopher Robbin, which featured the character, was banned. This film was banned because critics of Chinese President Xi Jinping circulated images, making light of the leader’s close resemblance to the honey-loving cartoon bear. Since then, the use of the image as a caricature of Xi has become even more popular with those opposed to his regime.

In a statement to KRQE, UNM’s President, Garnett Stokes didn’t directly deal with Fields’ social media postings.  However, he said, “we must be vigilant in rejecting bias in our community – physical or virtual.”  He also said “valuing inclusivity means treating everyone with respect, both in their presence and in their absence.”

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Fields is a professor on the physics faculty at the university. He also serves as Special Assistant to the Chair for PAIS (Physics & Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Science) according to his faculty page.  

According to his curriculum vitae, Fields has been at UNM since 1995.

Fields served as President of the Faculty Senate at UNM from 2009 to 2010. He resigned from this position in 2009 due to frustration at the administration’s unwillingness to commit to “shared governance” with faculty, according to the Albuquerque Journal

Days after local media covered the story, Fields made his personal Facebook profile photo another image that is critical of the Chinese Communist Party and its government. This image depicts Winnie The Pooh, again a stand-in for China’s Xi Jinping, sitting on top of a tank and staring down a Hong Kong protester. 

The accompanying caption reads: “#FREEHONGKONG.”

Campus Reform reached out to Fields but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Leo_Thuman