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Why WHO Praised Beijing’s Response to the Coronavirus

On January 28, when the situation of the Wuhan coronavirus continued to worsen, the World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping and other Chinese Communist Party leaders. Tedros gave high praise to the commitment of the Chinese government to combat the transmission of the virus very highly.

As multiple governments, including the U.S., France, Japan, South Korea, and Russia, have implemented or planned to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, WHO advised against it, expressing full confidence in the Chinese government’s capabilities.

Earlier on January 23, WHO decided not to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC. On January 28, WHO admitted an error in its risk assessment. The Geneva-based UN agency said in a situation report that the risk was “very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level,” and that it had stated things “incorrectly” in its previous reports on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that the global risk was “moderate.”

Records of donations of WHO member states (to Who) show China’s payments rose from sixth place in 2016-2017 with a share of 5.14 percent, to the third place in 2018-2019 with a share of 7.92 percent, second only to the 22 percent from the U.S. and 9.68 percent from Japan.

Lin Shih-chia, Chief Executive Officer of the non-government organization Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan (FMPAT), told Radio Free Asia that it was not surprising that the WHO gave priority to politics over professional judgment. Lin, who has been advocating Taiwan’s participation in WHO for 25 years, recalls that, although the mission of the WHO should prioritize the health of all human beings, Taiwan’s experience over the past few years has shown that WHO placed politics high on its agenda. From 2009 to 2016, Taiwanese delegates were able to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer. However, after Tsai Ing-wen, a leader unfavorable to Beijing, was elected, Taiwan was no longer qualified as an observer.

According to Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice president and epidemiologist, during the SARS epidemic in 2003, Taiwan was blocked from immediate notification of the situation because Taiwan was not a WHO member state. 37 Taiwanese died from SARS.

Jessica Drun, a researcher at the Project 2049 Institute, told RFA that, “China’s influence in the United Nations and international organizations is ubiquitous. … When political considerations are given priority (over public health considerations), health care across the region and the world is at risk.”

Source: Radio Free Asia, January 28, 2020