Taiwan demands apology from WHO chief over virus ‘slander’

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of the abuse — including racial slurs — he had been subjected to since the public health crisis began. (Keystone via AP)
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Updated 09 April 2020

Taiwan demands apology from WHO chief over virus ‘slander’

  • WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for unity to fight the disease
  • ‘Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan’

TAIPEI: Taiwan demanded an apology from the World Health Organization chief on Thursday after he accused the island’s government of leading personal attacks against him and his agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for unity to fight the disease on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump criticized the global health body and threatened to cut its funding.
During the press conference he spoke of the abuse — including racial slurs — he had been subjected to since the public health crisis began.
Tedros largely avoided mentioning Trump by name but he did single out the government in Taipei, which has been frozen out of the WHO after political pressure from Beijing.
“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan,” he told reporters in Geneva.
“They didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticizing me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care,” Tedros said.
The comments sparked anger in Taiwan, which described Tedros’ comments as “baseless.”
“Our country has never encouraged the public to launch personal attacks against him or made any racially discriminatory comments,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters on Thursday.
“Our government demands an immediate clarification and an apology from director-general Tedros over such extremely irresponsible act of slander,” she added.
Relations between the WHO and Taiwan have worsened considerably since the pandemic began, even as health experts have lauded Taiwan for its response to the virus.
It has just 379 confirmed COVID-19 patients and five deaths despite its close proximity and trade links with China, where the pandemic began.
Taiwan used to be able to obtain observer status at the WHO’s annual assembly.
But diplomatic pressure from Beijing in recent years has pushed Taiwan out of major international bodies including the WHO and ICAO — the UN’s aviation agency.
China’s Communist Party regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to one day seize the island — by force if necessary.
Beijing’s efforts to isolate the island have ramped up since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 because does not view the island as part of a “one China.”
Critics of Tedros have accused the WHO under his leadership of being too close to Beijing and complimentary of China’s response to the coronavirus.
In a tweet threatening to cut funding, Trump called the organization “very China centric.”
Tedros has denied being partisan or holding any geopolitical bias.
“Please quarantine COVID politics. That’s what we want. We don’t care about personal attacks,” he said.


Malaysia reports 19 new coronavirus cases; no deaths

Updated 1 min 5 sec ago

Malaysia reports 19 new coronavirus cases; no deaths

  • The health ministry reported no deaths, with total fatalities remaining at 117
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian health officials reported 19 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the cumulative total to 8,322.
The health ministry also reported no deaths, with total fatalities remaining at 117.