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WHO head, Taiwan brawl via media; China’s scheme?

By Akio Yasaka


Taipei – World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who leads the fight against the novel coronavirus, has started criticizing Taiwan, saying, “Racist slurs against me have come from Taiwan.” In response, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rebuffed the accusation, saying, “It is Taiwan that is discriminated against.” The brawl has come to be fought in the media. Behind the fight is a fierce bargaining over Taiwan’s qualification for participation in the WHO general assembly to be held as early as May.


“Racially motivated attacks against me started three months ago on the Internet,” claimed Director-General Tedros during the press conference on April 8. “They originated in Taiwan and despite their knowing this, the Taiwanese authorities, far from doing anything, have joined in the criticism.”


Recently, reporters have questioned the director-general and WHO officials on various occasions about “the issue of Taiwan’s joining the WHO,” but they have evaded the question. Mr. Tedros, who is pro-China, is regarded as being unsympathetic to Taiwan’s participation in the organization. As there is growing support in the international community for Taiwan’s joining the WHO, he seems under great pressure.


On the other hand, in response to the criticism from Mr. Tedros, Taiwanese Internet users replied, “Three months ago, we were in the middle of a Taiwanese presidential election and had no time to discriminate against you.” On April 9, President Tsai wrote on her Facebook account: “Taiwan understands discrimination and isolation more than anybody else because we have long been eliminated from international organizations.” The president added, “We earnestly desire the director-general to come to Taiwan and see how Taiwan is trying to contribute to the international community despite being discriminated against.”


The Investigation Bureau under the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice held a press conference on April 10 and released the results of an investigation: “Racist slurs against Mr. Tedros that originated in Taiwan were not found.” According to the ministry, after the WHO head criticized Taiwan, more than 100 messages were posted on Twitter, saying, “On behalf of Taiwanese, I apologize [to Mr. Tedros].” As a result of analyzing the accounts where the messages were posted, it was confirmed that Chinese users posted them, the ministry said.


The Taiwanese investigative authorities came to the conclusion that in order to tarnish Taiwan’s reputation in the international community, China intentionally posted a series of messages.


The WHO’s annual general assembly is held in Geneva, Switzerland, in May. Taiwan is unable to attend the meeting on account of China’s pressure on the organization. Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan’s Tsai administration has appealed to the international community that it be allowed to “participate in the general assembly this year.” Japan, Canada, and the U.S. have expressed support for Taiwan.

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