President Challenges WHO Chief to Visit Taiwan After Bizarre Rant on ‘Racist Comments’

TAIPEI, TAIWAN - JANUARY 11: Tsai Ing-Wen waves after addressing supporters following her
Carl Court/Getty Images

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen invited World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to visit her country on Thursday, after the public health official implied that Taiwan had instigated racist attacks against him due his poor handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO does not allow Taiwan to participate in its activities or apply for membership, because China considers the nation a rogue province rightfully under Beijing’s rule. The Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, has never been ruled from Beijing and has never formed part of the People’s Republic of China. It has functioned as an independent democracy with its own healthcare, military, educational, and other government infrastructure since its founding in 1912, long before the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

Taiwan’s government has been harshly critical of the WHO for excluding it in light of the current pandemic. Taiwanese officials have confirmed that they attempted to contact the WHO to share information regarding evidence of a growing outbreak in central China in late December, long before China made the discovery of a new pandemic public, but were “ignored.” Taiwan has also condemned the WHO for including China’s coronavirus statistics in with Taiwan’s, artificially inflating its national case count, and referring to the nation as “Taiwan, China” on official documents.

Tedros is currently facing growing criticism from President Donald Trump, members of Congress, and the international community for mismanaging the Chinese coronavirus crisis. Under his leadership, the WHO shared Chinese misinformation claiming the virus was not contagious among humans, and dissuaded countries from implementing travel restrictions on those coming from Wuhan, the city where the virus originated.

In remarks on Wednesday, Tedros accused Taiwan of attacking him personally without addressing Taipei’s concerns in being excluded from coronavirus response.

“I can tell you personal attacks that have been going on for more than two, three months. Abuses, or racist comments, giving me names, black or Negro. I’m proud of being black, proud of being Negro,” he said. “I don’t care, to be honest … even death threats. I don’t give a damn.”

“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan. We need to be honest. I will be straight today. From Taiwan. And Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry also, they know the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves,” Tedros continued. “They even started criticizing me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care.”

The WHO chief did not offer any examples of individuals using racial slurs against him or anyone associated with the Taiwanese government doing so. He did not clarify if, in accusing Taiwan of an “attack” against him, he was specifically referring to racial attacks.

President Tsai responded to the outburst asserting that the systematic exclusion of Taiwanese experts in every field from United Nations activities was true discrimination and that in light of that experience, “Taiwan has always opposed all forms of discrimination.”
“I strongly protest the accusations today that Taiwan is instigating racist attacks in the international community,” Tsai said. “For years, we have been excluded from international organizations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated.”

“I want to take this opportunity to invite Director-General Tedros to visit Taiwan and experience for himself how committed the Taiwanese people are to engaging with and contributing to the world, even in the face of discrimination and isolation,” Tsai said. “Taiwan’s selfless medical workers and volunteers can be found around the world. The Taiwanese people do not differentiate by skin color or language; all of us are brothers and sisters.”

“Taiwan is dedicated to the values of freedom, democracy, diversity, and tolerance. We do not condone the use of racist remarks to attack those with different opinions,” Tsai concluded. “If Director-General Tedros could withstand pressure from China and come to Taiwan to see Taiwan’s efforts to fight COVID-19 for himself, he would be able to see that the Taiwanese people are the true victims of unfair treatment. I believe that the WHO will only truly be complete if Taiwan is included.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs similarly condemned the accusations.

The Taiwanese government also noted that it had acted in a way that would be incongruous with any bigotry towards Tedros, offering humanitarian aid to his home country, Ethiopia.

Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) noted in a statement that it had offered a variety of humanitarian aid packages – including food, health care, water, and other amenities – and that it had welcomed several sets of Ethiopian exchange students to study and develop job skills in Taiwan.

The World Health Organization has not, at press time, defended Tedros’ remarks on Taiwan’s alleged participation in a smear campaign against him with evidence.

Taiwan has been heralded for one of the most successful responses to the current pandemic of any country. At press time, Taiwan has documented 380 cases of coronavirus in the country and only five deaths, despite being geographically close to the virus’s country of origin, China, and enduring extensive travel and economic ties with China.

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