Fourteen Republicans in the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a warning letter to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressing grave concerns about his questionable reaction to what they called the Chinese government’s role in exacerbating the COVID-19 pandemic, including its large-scale propaganda campaign.
“Given the actions and statements of WHO officials during the past few months, we are concerned that the WHO is no longer serving the needs of the world and is instead taking its cues from China,” wrote the Republican congressmen. “Throughout the crisis, the WHO has shied away from placing any blame on the Chinese government, which is, in essence, the Communist Party of China.”
The United States has the largest number of coronavirus infections worldwide. At the time of the writing of this article, the U.S. had nearly 600,000 people infected so far. Unfortunately, there are close to two million cases of the coronavirus worldwide and the Chinese have recently reported that around 82,000 of its citizens have contracted the virus—a figure that many experts, politicians and private citizens have been questioning recently.
The WHO, which is supposed to be an apolitical independent subsidiary of the United Nations, is part of the UN Sustainable Development Group and responsible for international public health. The UN body receives a significant amount of funding from the United States and the letter authored by the Republicans appeared to suggest that unless the WHO provides the requested documents and information “to help us and the public understand the WHO’s efforts to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its relationship with the Chinese government,” they may face a cut in funding.
In 2017, the WHO received 17% of its total funding, or $513 million, from the United States.
This money comes from American taxpayers.
The letter outright accused the Chinese government of lying and blamed WHO Director-General Tedros of covering for them: “You, as leader of the WHO, even went so far as to praise the Chinese government’s “transparency” during the crisis, when, in fact, the regime has consistently lied to the world by underreporting their actual infection and death statistics. During the crisis, the WHO has repeatedly relied on false information from the Chinese government.”
The lawmakers listed four examples of incidents where the WHO acted in favor of the Chinese government over the needs and safety of the world’s population it was created to protect and serve. The congressmen accused the WHO of denying the human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 based solely on Chinese propaganda.
How could one trust the WHO after the organization posted the following tweet on January 14? that based on “Preliminary investigations conducted by Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.”
The Chinese government’s covering up of information has its roots in the Communist Party’s well-documented history of censorship.
Senior CNN International Correspondent Ivan Watson reporting from Hong Kong on Monday stated in a live broadcast that China has imposed restrictions on the publication of academic research on the origins of the novel coronavirus. The Chinese Ministry of Education issued a directive stating “academic papers about tracing the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed.”
The move is clearly a concerted attempt by Chinese government officials to conceal the China origins of the outbreak.
In March, China’s censorship shocked press freedom watchdogs when the Chinese government expelled several leading American journalists reporting from China who worked for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post—another sheer example of their intention to hide the truth.
The Chinese government has even gone so far as making people who have been vocally critical of the regime and its handling of the crisis disappear. At least five known cases have been documented including the disappearance of Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing’s Tsinhghua University who disappeared after criticizing Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist party’s handling of the outbreak; Xu Zhiyong, a civil rights lawyer and activist who was arrested in February for criticizing President Xi’s “inability to handle major crises;” and Chinese lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi who went missing several days after releasing a video reporting on Coronavirus that went viral. Blogger Fang Bin was arrested on February 10, shortly after posting videos he took of body bags in the back of a truck near a hospital in Wuhan, China.
The numbers speak for themselves and nothing portrays the tragedy of the spread of the virus like the interactive article published in the New York Times titled “How the Virus Got Out” which tracks the movements of hundreds of millions of people who traveled from Wuhan to other parts of the world.
It was not until December 31 that China alerted the WHO to the risks of the virus and stated, “this disease is preventable and controllable.” The New York Times found that on January 1 alone at least 175,000 people left Wuhan and approximately 7 million people left Wuhan in January before travel was restricted. Wuhan’s population was 11 million people before that.
During a press briefing at the WHO headquarters on Monday, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said, “Right from the start, from the first notification we received on the 31st of December, given that this was a cluster of pneumonia — I’m a MERS specialist, so my background is in coronaviruses and influenza — so immediately thought, given that this is a respiratory pathogen, that, of course, there may be human-to-human transmission.”
Also on Monday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said China should waive the $1 trillion in U.S. debt it owes as restitution for its hand in causing the coronavirus to become a deadly global pandemic.
“There is a growing opinion among our colleagues that China needs to be first of all held to account for what they’ve done, and secondly they need to pay for what this has cost in lives and livelihoods and suffering and what it cost our economy,” Blackburn said. “Now we do know that China … holds a trillion dollars of our debt … so waiving that would be a good solid step.”
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “we know this is a global pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China, but we also know that China was too late in providing important information about human to human spread of the virus. The information didn’t get to the relevant people that could have made decisions earlier, and that caused the entire world to be on its back foot at a time when it needed to be moving forward and [addressing the spread of the virus] aggressively.”
Pompeo added that the State Department is actively working to counter propaganda and misinformation campaigns from China and the World Health Organization.
In an interview with The Investigative Journal (TIJ), Gordon Chang – author of “The Coming Collapse of China” called for the immediate resignation of Dr. Tedros and other senior leaders of the World Health Organization, otherwise, the United States should defund the WHO. The United States accounts for 17 percent of funding to the WHO.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will cut off funding to the World Health Organization while his administration reviews its role in “mismanaging” the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Tuesday, an online petition calling for the resignation of WHO Director-General Tedros neared 1 million signatures.
“There are extremely troubling signs about this relationship between China and the WHO. Beijing did not formally admit that there was human to human transmissions of coronavirus until January 2020 but doctors in Wuhan knew about the transmissions the second week of December,” Chang told TIJ. “It’s even worse because Beijing took the position that there was not human to human transmissions. The World Health Organization, when it should have known better, propagated china’s claims.”
“China not only deliberately misled the world about the transmissions, they also urged and pressured countries not to impose travel restrictions or quarantines on arrivals from China,” Chang said. “I make the point that if Xi Jinping wanted to deliberately spread coronavirus to the rest of the world, he would have done exactly what he did. He would have tried to convince the world that it was not contagious from human-to-human and he would have tried to keep open the travel links between China and the rest of the world. The World Health Organization helped him on those two things.” Chang added, “this disease spread to the rest of the world by two institutions: The Communist Party of China and the World Health Organization. You can even say, if there were no World Health Organization, the world would be in a much better condition than it is now.”
While the Trump administration considers cutting the $450 million dollar aid the US grants the WHO, humanitarians and journalists argue against cutting the lifeline the funds provide like New York Times veteran correspondent Nicholas Kristoff who tweeted recently: “President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization is a sad effort to find a scapegoat for his own failings. He is not compounding the damage by impeding the global response to COVID19, so that even more will die unnecessarily.”
For Americans, the WHO may seem distant and not so relevant. But health is global. And while all the evidence points to grave shortcomings from the World Health Organization, some say this is not the time to cut off aid. After all, it was the WHO’s terrific work on Ebola in eastern Congo that has helped keep the rest of the world safe. It fights maternal mortality and obstetric fistula. And now of course, it is battling COVID-19.