Woman arrested for spreading false rumors related to Kaiyang COVID outbreak in Dalian, China

Published on
July 27, 2020

Chinese police have arrested a woman accused of spreading rumors on social media about an outbreak of COVID-19 connected to a well-known Dalian based seafood processor.

In an announcement on Weibo, the Public Security Bureau in Dalian said it’s holding a 68-year-old woman for “disseminating false rumors” around the magnitude of an outbreak of coronavirus at processing facilities owned by Kaiyang World Seafood Co.

Among the rumors circulating in Dalian includes one suggesting seafood firms in the city were sourcing “infected” seafood from black market vessels approaching Dalian by sea. Located in northern China, the city does a large trade with nearby Russia. 

The arrest – intended to warn off commentary that could damage the city's large seafood industry – is significant, given a wave of content in traditional and social media around COVID infections apparently detected on a cutting board used to slice imported salmon from Europe in June and on the packaging of Ecuadorian shrimp in July.

The wave of suggestions and speculation on China’s highly censored media which followed both previous seafood-related outbreaks doesn’t seem to have been repeated around the COVID cluster in Dalian. Coverage has instead focused on a shutdown of the city’s transport system to stymie any spread of the disease.

The Dalian case involved a 58-year-old man working at Kaiyang’s processing facility. Numerous samples taken at the facility, including from frozen food, the plant’s processing workshop, office building, and break room also tested positive, Reuters reported.

The outbreak is the latest blow to Kaiyang, which is facing a nightmare financial year, as its business is largely focused on retailing of domestic and imported seafood through its online and traditional retail channels. All of the stores in Dalian are now closed, according to a company statement, with logistics operations also stalled, according to Kaiyang.

The firm’s new studio in Dalian for live video e-commerce has also been shut, having been opened with high expectations by company CEO Wei Yang, who aimed to tap into social media video sharing platforms to sell seafood.

Last year, Kaiyang – which also has a contract processing business – saw revenues rise 67 percent to CNY 320 million (USD 44.8 million, EUR 41.6 million) in 2019, yet profits at a meager CNY 6 million (USD 840,000, EUR 780,000) were down by 40 percent, in large part because the firm has invested so much in expanding its distribution network.

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