No evidence to back WHO director general’s accusations against Taiwan

Likely not the end of this story:

The pattern surrounding the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Beijing party-state’s ongoing influence over it continues. Taiwan, a nation that has shown impressive success in combatting the COVID-19 virus despite its exclusion from WHO, is now accused of racism by the organization’s director general.

WHO Director General Tedros A. Ghebreyesus—an Ethiopian microbiologist and the first African to hold the position—asserted that Taiwan’s government not only launched a cyber campaign against him, but is also the instigator of the racism directed at Africans in general.

In a press briefing on April 6, the director general claimed he had been the victim of racially abusive attacks emanating from Taiwan, and that the country’s foreign ministry had actually stepped up its criticism of him.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen and the ministry of foreign affairs have denied the charges.

Given the fraught situation between Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) generally, including the latter’s manipulation of WHO policies of Taiwan exclusion over the years—combined with the Beijing government’s serious mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the evidence appears clearly stacked against Tedros’ claims.

President Tsai and her government provided warnings to the WHO as early as last December, which, if not ignored, as they were, might have saved thousands of lives.

For nearly half a century, the People’s Republic of China has effectively blocked Taiwan from joining the WHO. Despite never having exercised authority over the island, the CCP deems Taiwan part of its territory, and forces international organizations—including the United Nations and its agencies like the WHO—to accept its view.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, one of WHO’s top advisers recently evaded and then abruptly cut off Hong Kong journalist Yvonne Tong’s question on whether WHO would reconsider Taiwan’s status in light of the country’s exemplary performance in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

According to the reputable Foreign Policy Magazine, Beijing succeeded from the first outbreak of the coronavirus in misdirecting the World Health Organization (WHO), which receives comparatively modest funding from it but has somehow become obedient to it on many levels.

WHO’s international experts could not gain access to China until Tedros visited President Xi Jinping in Beijing at the end of January. Before then, WHO uncritically repeated information from party-state authorities, ignoring warnings from Taiwanese doctors. Reluctant to declare a “public health emergency of international concern,” WHO denied as late as Jan. 22 that there was any need to do so.

After China’s pandemic had levelled off, notes the Foreign Policy article, Tedros then praised Beijing’s “success.”

In sharp contrast, Taiwan has been treated as an outcast by the WHO, despite its exemplary performance in the current world crisis.

Almost 100 anti-COVID-19 initiatives from Taiwan’s national government included: screening Wuhan flights as early as Dec. 31; banning Wuhan residents on Jan. 23; suspending Taiwanese visits to Hubei province on Jan. 25; and barring all Chinese arrivals on Feb. 6. These and other measures resulted in only 388 confirmed cases and six deaths as of April 12 in a population of almost 24 million.

The WHO not only ignores Taiwan’s medical expertise, but also its status vis-à-vis China.

During the current pandemic, the organization keeps changing how it refers to Taiwan, going from “Taiwan, China,” to “Taipei” to the newer “Taipei and its environs”. It permitted Beijing to report Taiwan’s coronavirus numbers as part of its own total, instead of reporting Taiwan’s numbers alone—a conflation that created headaches for the smaller nation. Some countries imposed travel restrictions  on Taiwan along with China, despite the former’s small infection rate.

“Taiwan’s selfless medical workers and volunteers can be found around the world. The Taiwanese people do not differentiate by skin colour or language; all of us are brothers and sisters,” Tsai said in response to Tedros’ accusations. “We have never let our inability to join international organizations lessen our support for the international community.” She added that the WHO head was welcome to visit Taiwan and see for himself.

The internationally acknowledged success of Taiwan with the scourge of COVID-19 might lead to a diplomatic opening. Its government has already concluded a bilateral agreement with the United States to send masks, which could lead to drugs and vaccines going to America for clinical trials. Other governments seem likely to follow.

Susan Korah is an Ottawa-based journalist and David Kilgour was secretary of state, Asia-Pacific, 2002-2003, and Africa/Latin America, 1997-2002, in the Chrétien government.

Source: OpinionNo evidence to back WHO director general’s accusations against Taiwan

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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