A top World Health Organization (WHO) official appeared to hang up on a reporter who asked him twice about Taiwan.
The island, just 80 miles away from China, swiftly dealt with the outbreak of the CCP virus and has few cases of the new illness. Taiwan accused the WHO of ignoring its questions at the start of the outbreak, which the Chinese Communist Party hid from the world for weeks.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China before it was transmitted worldwide.
RTHK, a Hong Kong-based media outlet, interviewed WHO’s Bruce Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist who led a joint WHO-China mission looking into the spread of the virus in China. The resulting report repeatedly praised China, as have he and other WHO officials during daily briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic and interviews with news outlets.
Noting the praise Taiwan earned for its response to the new illness, an RTHK reporter then asked Aylward: “Will the WHO reconsider Taiwan’s membership?”
Aylward stared at the screen and did not speak.
“Hello?” the reporter asked.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear your question, Yvonne,” Aylward quickly said. When the reporter said she’d repeat it, he replied: “No, that’s okay. Let’s move to another one, then.”
The WHO bars Taiwan from being a member under pressure from China.
The reporter then began asking a different question about Taiwan, prompting Aylward to end the video call.
The reporter called back and asked Aylward to speak about how Taiwan had contained the virus.
“We’ve already talked about China,” he replied. “When you look across all the areas of China, they’ve actually all done quite a good job.”
Aylward then bid the reporter goodbye and ended the interview.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in a statement that Aylward “did not answer a question on Taiwan’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“The question of Taiwanese membership in WHO is up to WHO Member States, not WHO staff. However, WHO is working closely with all health authorities who are facing the current coronavirus pandemic, including Taiwanese health experts,” he wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
Taiwan’s response included widespread testing. Nearly 30,000 patients were tested and most tested negative. The island had 283 patients as of March 28. Thirty have been released from quarantine while two have died. The rest remain in isolation.
Taiwan also said it tried alerting the WHO to COVID-19 last year, which was known at the time only as a mysterious pneumonia. The United States has increased support for the island recently.
WHO and China
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won election to his post in 2017 with the backing of China. He has repeatedly declined to criticize China and regularly praised the country for allegedly giving the world a “window of opportunity” to curb the spread of the CCP virus. He also opposed travel restrictions, including the one President Donald Trump announced against China on Jan. 31.
Shying away from confronting the Chinese Communist Party, Tedros angered many, prompting calls for him to resign.
“Because of his leadership, the world may have missed a critical window to halt the pandemic or mitigate its virulence,” Lianchao Han, vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, and Bradley Thayer, a professor of political science at the University of Texas-San Antonio, wrote in an op-ed.
Only a few WHO officials have spoken out about China hiding the extent of the outbreak. John Mackenzie, who sits on the group’s emergency committee on the virus, called the Chinese Communist Party’s response “reprehensible” last month.
“There must have been more cases happening that we weren’t being told about. I think they tried to keep the figures quiet for a while because of some major meeting they had in Wuhan but I think there was a period of very poor reporting, or very poor communication,” he said.
Most other WHO officials have sided with Tedros, despite a growing body of evidence showing the Chinese Communist Party manipulated the number of infected and dead, hid information from other countries, and continues making claims that contradict evidence on the ground.
China said in recent days that there were no new infections in Wuhan, where the CCP virus first emerged, a claim widely criticized as not credible but repeated by media outlets around the world.
Internal documents obtained by The Epoch Times have highlighted how the regime bungled its data tracking and censored discussions of the outbreak, fueling the spread of the disease. Others show authorities underreported infections in Wuhan and Shandong and were requiring government offices to destroy data related to the outbreak.
Wu Se-chih, adjunct assistant professor at the Taipei College of Maritime Technology, told Epoch Times that WHO has been “taking China’s side, saying that China has done a good job [in combating the virus]. But the reality is that the pandemic has become serious all over the world.”
On Jan. 14, the WHO repeated Beijing’s claim that there was “no clear evidence of human to human transmission” for the CCP virus. One day later, America’s first confirmed case arrived in the United States. Seven days later, China’s state-run media Xinhua admitted that human transmission was possible.
One study, which has not been peer-reviewed, showed that Chinese authorities acting three weeks earlier than they did would have cut the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide by 95 percent, severely limiting its spread.
Asked if people could trust China’s data, Aylward told one outlet last week: “The big question is, are they hiding things? No, they are not.”
Frank Fang, Nicole Hao, and Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.