WHO is accused of being influenced by Beijing after a senior official ‘hung up on’ a journalist who asked about Taiwan’s response to coronavirus
- Dr Aylward from the WHO was speaking to Radio Television Hong Kong via Skype
- He seemed to hastily end the call when confronted with questions about Taiwan
- WHO replied on Sunday that Taiwan’s membership is not determined by its staff
- China sees Taiwan as its own territory while Taiwan considers itself independent
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The World Health Organization has been accused of being influenced by China after its top official appeared to hang up on a journalist when confronted with questions about Taiwan during a video interview.
When asked about Taiwan’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak by a Hong Kong journalist, Dr Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general of the WHO, avoided commenting further, claiming they had ‘already talked about China’.
WHO later said the question of Taiwan’s membership is ‘up to WHO Member States, not WHO staff’ while responding to interview.
It comes as the organisation has recently been criticised by the media for its political bias towards China, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory.
Dr Aylward, who is also the team leader of WHO-China Joint Mission against the coronavirus, was interviewed by Yvonne Tong, a journalist from Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK)
Dr Aylward, who is also the team leader of WHO-China Joint Mission against the coronavirus, was interviewed by Yvonne Tong, a journalist from Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), via a Skype call last Friday.
During a segment of the interview, Ms Tong asked if the WHO would reconsider letting Taiwan join the organisation. Dr Aylward first didn’t respond for several seconds before saying he couldn’t hear the journalist.
When Ms Tong offered to repeat the question, the official said: ‘No it’s okay. Let’s move to another one then.’ He then appeared to be disconnected from the call or hang up on Ms Tong when she said she wanted to talk about Taiwan.
The journalist rang Dr Aylward again and asked if he could comment on Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. There is a total of 322 confirmed coronavirus cases in Taiwan and only five deaths.
‘Well, we’ve already talked about China,’ the official replied. ‘And when you look across all the different areas of China, they’ve actually all done quite a good job.’
Dr Aylward then ended the interview by saying: ‘With that, I’d like to thank you very much for inviting us to participate.’
Dr Aylward then ended the interview by saying: ‘With that, I’d like to thank you very much for inviting us to participate.’ Pictured: Dr Bruce Aylward speaks to the media about the COVID-19
Critics have slammed Dr Aylward and WHO, suggesting that they are politically influenced by China, a major contributor to the organisation.
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, a reporter at American news outlet Axios, reacted: ‘This is really stunning. Beijing’s power over the speech of a Canadian WHO official.’
‘Aylward’s behavior reminds us that either we remove #China’s pernicious influence in multilateral institutions like the #WorldHealthOrganization or the world’s free states defund them and start over,’ American author Gordon Chang tweeted.
US senator Marco Rubio wrote: ‘No surprise. The front line workers at @WHO do amazing and heroic work. But some of the organizations leaders have covered for #China’s Communist Party from day one of #coronavirus.’
‘Wow, can’t even utter ‘Taiwan’ in the WHO?’ Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later commented on its Twitter account. ‘You should set politics aside in dealing with a pandemic.’
‘Wow, can’t even utter ‘Taiwan’ in the WHO?’ Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later commented on its Twitter account. ‘You should set politics aside in dealing with a pandemic’
WHO responded to the interview on Sunday and said Taiwan’s membership is not decided by its staff.
‘In a recent interview, the WHO official who headed the joint international mission to China, did not answer a question on Taiwan’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak,’ a statement read.
‘The question of Taiwanese membership in WHO is up to WHO Member States, not WHO staff. However, WHO is working closely with all health authorities who are facing the current coronavirus pandemic, including Taiwanese health experts.’
When MailOnline contacted WHO for further comment today, the media team replied with its statement from Sunday.
China views the island as one of its provinces while Taiwan considers itself to be an independent country. Young people are pictured walking on a street in Taipei, Taiwan
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, has also repeatedly praised China for its response to the outbreak. The picture shows him speaking at a news briefing yesterday
China and Taiwan have a long-standing dispute over the island’s political status. China views the island as one of its provinces while Taiwan considers itself to be an independent country.
WHO has yet to officially recognise Taiwan as a member state and the island has been denied permission to attend emergency meetings and briefings since 2016, according to the press.
RTHK also pressed Dr Aylward regarding WHO’s response to the coronavirus, of which WHO did not declare a pandemic until March 11, when the virus had already reached at least 112 countries and infected more than 110,000 people.
The official said the WHO always knew there was the potential that it would become a pandemic.
‘We actually, as societies, have the ability, where it appears, to prevent this becoming a pandemic if we do the kind of measures that China put in place,’ Dr Aylward added.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, has also repeatedly praised China for its response to the outbreak, despite Hubei, where the virus was first discovered, initially tried to cover up the epidemic.
More than 786,000 people around the world have been infected with the deadly disease and at least 37,820 have died.
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