While Taiwan has alerted the WHO to the emergence of the virus and the possibility of human-to-human transmission, several weeks before China, the UN specialized agency continues to boycott Taipei, at Beijing’s request.
By Ian Hamel, in Geneva
David Huang, Taiwan’s representative in Switzerland, launched a violent attack on the local press. “On December 31, Taiwan informed the WHO and the United States of potential human-to-human transmission of the Covid-19. We did not use that term, but we did mention a SARS-like pneumonia caused by an atypical SARS-like virus that required quarantine measures. This implies human-to-human transmission,” he says in the Lausanne daily Le Temps. However, it was not until January 22 that a committee of WHO experts traveling to Wuhan simply wrote that “sources suggest that human-to-human transmission is occurring in Wuhan,” and that “further analysis is needed to understand the extent of this transmission”. And it was not until March 11, 2020, that the World Health Organization finally spoke of a “pandemic”. An unacceptable delay that has undoubtedly caused the death of tens of thousands of people around the world.
While Taiwan appears to be one of the countries that is best managing the coronavirus crisis, with only 426 cases and six deaths in this country of twenty-three million people, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific is refusing all contact with this country and is not providing it with regional health information. The international organization even refuses to certify the vaccines produced by Taiwan. Of course, the WHO cannot be criticized for defending the One-China policy. Nevertheless, why refuse to use the expertise of this small territory, which has one of the best health systems on the planet? Especially since Taiwan used to have an observer status. Until Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the current Director General of the WHO, abolished it upon his election in 2017. The first African elected to this post, this Ethiopian doctor is accused of being beholden to the Chinese. And not only by the American president. “The WHO, a Chinese puppet?”, recently headlined the Mediapart website.
In a vitriolic article entitled “A challenge for multilateralism: China’s instrumentalization of Africa and its consequences on WHO decisions”, Valérie Niquet, Senior Research Fellow at the french Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS), recalls that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was elected head of the WHO thanks to very active support from Beijing. But also that China is “the first source of foreign investment and the first trading partner of Ethiopia. Between 2005 and 2019, the cumulative amount of Chinese investment reached 8% of the total for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia is the second largest recipient country in Africa. In addition, the regional headquarters of the Xinhua agency, one of the main organs of the Communist Party of China’s external propaganda apparatus, is located in Addis Ababa.
That’s not all. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, former minister of Health and then of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, who is now 55 years old, also has a bellyful of recognition for the Middle Kingdom. Indeed, he was a member of the Ethiopian revolutionary communist organization, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which was supported by China. Marxist-Leninist, this organization fought in the years 1970-1980 against the power of Addis Ababa, then supported by Moscow… From the 1990s, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which came to power, changed its name and abandoned all references to Marxism-Leninism. But the solidarity remains with the Chinese big brother. Nor had Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus forgotten another companion in the struggle formerly supported by China in Africa, the infamous Robert Mugabe, the former dictator of Zimbabwe. In October 2017, he had chosen him as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador to help fight non-transmissible diseases in Africa. But faced with an outcry, the new WHO Director General was forced to resign from this controversial appointment.