Taiwan demands WHO head to apologize following accusations of racist campaigns
Over the last few weeks, the relationship between Taiwan and the WHO has been getting a lot of international attention, and the WHO has tried to prove that it didn’t intentionally marginalize Taiwan through several statements, some has since been deleted.
However, on Wednesday, the Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, unexpectedly accused Taiwan of launching a months-long racist campaign against him and criticizing Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of being complacent about it.
During WHO’s daily press briefing on Wednesday, Tedros responded to a reporter’s question about how he viewed all the criticisms against him by saying that he had been targeted by racist attacks and death threats over the last few months.
He said he has been called a “negro” and many of these attacks came from Taiwan. “We need to be honest, I will be straight today, from Taiwan,” Tedros said sternly. “And Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry also, they know the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves.”
He then claimed that MOFA even started criticizing him amid all the insults that he was receiving, and it went on for three months. “It’s enough. But still, they can continue. I don’t care.”
Tedros went on to say that he found the attacks more insulting when the insults had been extended to the entire black community.
Taiwan MOFA: Tedros must apologize
Hours after Tedros’ unexpected accusations, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded Tedros to apologize, as they described the WHO head’s remarks as “baseless claims.”
Responding to Tedros on Twitter, the Ministry said the WHO has “mislabeled and outright ignored” legitimate enquiries about Taiwan. “The government of Taiwan has in no way condoned nor encouraged any personal attacks on Dr. Tedros. It’s always believed in Health for All and continues seeking full cooperation with the WHO to share Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus with the international community,” wrote MOFA on Twitter.
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen also responded to Tedros’ accusations on social media, writing on her official Facebook Page that she strongly protest the accusations made against Taiwan. “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,” Tsai wrote.
She went on to suggest that in order to make Tedros understand Taiwan’s commitment to international engagement, she invited Tedros to visit Taiwan. “If Director-General Tedros could withstand pressure from China and come to Taiwan … he would be able to see that the Taiwanese people are the true victims of unfair treatment,” Tsai said. “The WHO will only truly be complete if Taiwan is included.”
Potential impact on Taiwan’s international reputation
Experts think that while Tedros’ accusations are clearly unfounded and baseless, it could potentially generate some impact on Taiwan’s international reputation in the short term. Lev Nachman, a 2020 Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan, said that Tedros’ comments show that after weeks of being criticized by the international community, he realized that he will have to respond to the growing demands for the WHO to include Taiwan.
“So they need to think of a reason to not let Taiwan in,” said Nachman. “This is a perfect example of moving to the goalpost policy where we have been kicking this ball of ‘letting Taiwan into the WHO’ for the last month, and everything is perfect and countries are recognizing how great Taiwan is.”
“But today, WHO said that ‘Taiwan might be perfectly qualified for WHO participation, but they are also racist’”, Nachman explained. “And so the goalpost gets moved.”
Chieh-Ting Yeh, the Vice Chairman of the DC-based Global Taiwan Institute, said as the highest multilateral health body in the world, WHO’s words are supposed to set the standard for saving lives around the world. This position makes Tedros’ accusations even more irresponsible.
“If Tedros is serious in raising this issue, the WHO should support its case with evidence and bring a formal complaint,” said Yeh. “If it turns out to be a baseless claim, the WHO should officially apologize to Taiwan.”
However, Yeh also acknowledges the rarity for Tedros to mention Taiwan at such an official occasion for the WHO, and it might mean that Tedros is adopting a different strategy to deal with the issue of Taiwan than the WHO would normally do.
“This is also the first time since this crisis that the WHO addressed Taiwan directly,” Yeh said. “It’s a departure from their official tactic of avoiding and pretending never heard of Taiwan.”
Yeh thinks that in the short term, WHO’s accusation could have certain impact on Taiwan’s international reputation, but it will also alienate more Taiwanese people from the WHO, which he thinks doesn’t help the WHO’s stated mission.
“In the longer run, as more people debate the relationship between Taiwan and the WHO, they will see the facts: Taiwan is the most free and liberal nation in Asia; Taiwan has done a miraculous job keeping its citizens safe; Taiwan is eager to help the rest of the world; and the WHO has been the one denying Taiwan any help, due to China’s political position on Taiwan,” said Yeh. “I believe there will be more demand for Taiwan to contribute to the world’s health, even despite Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO.”
This piece first appeared on Detusche Welle’s Mandarin website.