‘What’s Wrong with You?’: Taiwan Excoriates WHO for Coronavirus ‘Fake News’

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu gestures during a press conference in Taipei on May 1, 2018. - Taiwan said it was "deeply upset" after the Dominican Republic, one of its few remaining official allies, established diplomatic relations with China and cut ties with the island. (Photo by SAM YEH / …
SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu of Taiwan erupted against the World Health Organization (WHO) on Twitter Wednesday for its deliberate exclusion of the country from the ongoing coronavirus response and its misreporting on the situation in Taiwan.

The WHO, a United Nations body, refuses to acknowledge the existence of Taiwan or allow it into any of its venues or programs, as the Chinese Communist Party falsely claims it as a rogue province. The WHO has refused to cooperate with the Taiwanese government through the process of responding to the coronavirus crisis that began in China last month and claims to be in contact with Taiwan through the Communist Party, which has no ties to Taipei or control of the island.

As a result, the WHO published false statistics on the coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan, inflating the actual number of confirmed cases there. It has also referred to Taiwan as “Taiwan, China,” which the Taiwanese government has repeatedly condemned as inaccurate and disrespectful.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Wu used the official account of his ministry to address the WHO and demanded to know, “what’s wrong with you”:

The WHO published a “situation report” on the coronavirus outbreak – which at press time is believed to have infected over 28,000 people and killed over 500, nearly all of them in China – on Wednesday that referred to Taiwan as “Taipei and environs,” an attempted correction of “Taiwan, China,” which prompted global outrage. The day before, the “Taiwan, China” case count was listed as 13, three more than the Taiwanese government had actually confirmed. The error is a result of the WHO refusing to communicate with the Taiwanese government. Taiwan’s Health and Welfare Ministry referred to the number as “fake news” and blamed “wrong numbers that were provided by China” for the mistake. Taipei also blamed the WHO for Vietnam and Italy limiting its flights to Taiwan, citing false information from the U.N. organization.

The ministry account addressed WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus directly on Thursday, demanding a retraction of his effusive praise for China’s response to the viral outbreak. China has consistently withheld key information during the outbreak, refusing to acknowledge it for nearly a month in the city of Wuhan, where it originated. The refusal to alert health professionals in the city about the contagious nature of the deadly virus left many exposed to coronavirus patients and resulted in hospitals not adequately isolating potential patients and thus exposing people who were already sick and in a state of compromised health, to the virus.

Adhanom has demanded that the world show “gratitude and respect” to the Communist Party for its flawed response to the outbreak.

The remarks followed a stern rebuke from Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou on Thursday, who called the false numbers from the WHO “absurd.”

“We expressed our solemn protest to the WHO after Taiwan’s objection with regards to the matter through its representative office in Geneva and several other channels was ignored,” she said. “I’d like to ask the WHO, how many times are you going to change Taiwan’s name? These are not our correct names. Let me reiterate — our name is Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China.”

At a WHO meeting on Wednesday, the United States urged the group to include Taiwan in the response, insisting that saving lives from a health emergency was not a political endeavor.

“For the rapidly evolving coronavirus, it is a technical imperative that WHO present visible public health data on Taiwan as an affected area and engage directly with Taiwan public health authorities on actions,” American Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Andrew Bremberg said at a WHO executive board meeting, according to the Taipei Times.

“I would like to reiterate that Taiwan is part of China, this fact cannot be changed,” Bremberg’s Chinese counterpart at the meeting, Qi Daihai, stated falsely. “Stop hyping-up about the so-called Taiwan issue. Don’t waste our time.”

The United States and Japan, which also complained to the WHO about its designation of Taiwan as China, joined eSwatini, Paraguay, and Guatemala, which also demanded Taiwan be included in global outbreak response in a prior WHO meeting. The three are part of the 15 nations that accurately recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state; the list does not include the United States. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen recognized the three states on Twitter.

Tsai’s vice president, Lai Ching-te, is currently in Washington meeting with congressmen and national security officials. In meeting with the National Security Council on Wednesday, Lai reportedly became the highest-ranking Taiwanese official to meet with them since 1979, when President Jimmy Carter formally established diplomatic relations with the communists in Beijing and abandoned Taipei. Lai also met with a bipartisan group of senators.

Taiwan has implemented travel restrictions and otherwise attempted to prepare to screen travelers for the virus. It has largely relied on the United States to relay key information to identify and treat the virus.

Residents of Wuhan, China, have reported being aware of a disease spreading since December, but Communist Party officials only notified the world on January 20 of the identification of a new virus, 20 days after it shut down a wild meat market suspected of being the source of the virus.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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