On Monday, President Donald Trump sent a letter to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, threatening to make the U.S. funding freeze to the WHO permanent. Trump laid out a devastating timeline showing the WHO’s complicity with China’s lies and malfeasance regarding the coronavirus pandemic. He urged Tedros to follow the example of previous WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland, who did not hesitate to condemn China’s malfeasance during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Trump condemned the WHO for an “alarming lack of independence from the People’s Republic of China.” He noted that in 2003, “Brundtland boldly declared the World Health Organization’s first emergency travel advisory in 55 years, recommending against travel to and from the disease epicenter in southern China. She also did not hesitate to criticize China for endangering global health by attempting to cover up the outbreak through its usual playbook of arresting whistleblowers and censoring media. Many lives could have been saved had you followed Dr. Brundtland’s example.”
This is the letter sent to Dr. Tedros of the World Health Organization. It is self-explanatory! pic.twitter.com/pF2kzPUpDv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020
Lest there be any doubt why Trump is considering permanently removing U.S. funding, he laid out the WHO’s shameful complicity with China in detail.
First, the WHO “consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal.” When Taiwanese authorities sent the WHO evidence indicating human-to-human transmission on December 31, “the World Health Organization chose not to share any of this critical information with the rest of the world, probably for political reasons.”
China did not inform the WHO about the new coronavirus until December 31, even though it likely had knowledge of these cases days or weeks earlier. According to unpublished, unconfirmed Chinese government reports seen by the South China Morning Post, the first recorded case of the coronavirus dates to November 17, 2019, and by December 27, the documents showed 181 confirmed cases. Trump did not cite the SCMP documents, but they may confirm the president’s suspicions that Chinese authorities knew about the coronavirus weeks earlier.
“According to Dr. Zhang Yongzhen of the Shanghai Public Health Clinic Center, he told Chinese authorities on January 5, 2020, that he had sequenced the genome of the virus,” Trump continued. “There was no publication of this information until six days later, on January 11, 2020, when Dr. Zhange Self-posted it online. The next day, Chinese authorities closed his lab for ‘rectification.’ As even the World Health Organization acknowledged, Dr. Zhang’s posting was a great act of ‘transparency.’ But the World Health Organization has been conspicuously silent both with respect to the closure of Dr. Zhang’s lab and his assertion that he had notified Chinese authorities of his breakthrough six days earlier.”
On January 14, the WHO “gratuitously reaffirmed China’s now-debunked claim that the coronavirus could not be transmitted between humans,” even though Taiwan had sent evidence confirming the opposite weeks earlier.
“On January 21, 2020, President Xi Jinping of China reportedly pressured you not to declare the coronavirus outbreak an emergency,” Trump wrote to Tedros. “You gave in to this pressure the next day and told the world that the coronavirus did not pose a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Just over one week later, on January 30, 2020, overwhelming evidence to the contrary forced you to reverse course.”
Trump did not mention that it appears Xi pressured the WHO to minimize the threat so that countries would send valuable personal protective equipment (PPE) to China. Beijing received 2.4 billion pieces. When those countries asked China for PPE, China extorted them — only sending valuable medical aid if political leaders agreed to publicly praise Beijing. Chinese companies also sent faulty medical gear to European countries and to the U.S. Meanwhile, the Communist Party also prevented U.S. companies from shipping their own medical gear back home, where it is sorely needed.
On January 28 after a meeting with Xi, Tedros praised the Chinese government for its “transparency” with respect to the coronavirus, saying Beijing had set a “new standard for outbreak control” and “bought the world time.” As Trump mentioned, Tedros “did not mention that China had, by then, silenced or punished several doctors for speaking out about the virus and restricted Chinese institutions from publishing information about it.”
While President Trump himself also praised Xi and China early on, Trump was celebrating a trade deal and the WHO has a unique duty to share health information with the world. Trump also should not have praised Xi at the time, but Tedros’ praise is the greater scandal.
Although the WHO had declared a public health emergency on January 30, international medical experts did not arrive in China until February 16. “And even then, the team was not allowed to visit Wuhan until the final days of their visit. Remarkably, the World Health Organization was silent when China denied the two American members of the team access to Wuhan entirely.”
Trump also faulted Tedros’ duplicity on travel restrictions. “You also strongly praised China’s strict domestic travel restrictions, but were inexplicably against my closing of the United States border, or the ban, with respect to people coming from China,” the president wrote.
“Your political gamesmanship on this issue was deadly, as other governments, relying on your comments, delayed imposing life-saving restrictions on travel to and from China. Incredibly, on February 3, 2020, you reinforced your position, opining that because China was doing such a great job protecting the world from the virus, travel restrictions were ‘causing more harm than good.’ Yet by then the world knew that, before locking down Wuhan, Chinese authorities had allowed more than five million people to leave the city and that many of these people were bound for international destinations,” Trump added, scathingly.
While the World Health Organization’s insistence that there was no human-to-human transmission has rightly become notorious, the president also noted that on March 3, the WHO “cited official Chinese data to downplay the very serious risk of asymptomatic spread.” The WHO insisted that “COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza” and that the disease was not primarily driven by “people who are infected but not yet sick.”
Even at that point, many experts, “citing data from Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere, vigorously questioned these assertions. It is now clear that China’s assertions, repeated to the world by the World Health Organization, were wildly inaccurate,” Trump added.
While many African countries complained about the extra restrictions China placed on Africans living in China, Tedros did not comment “on China’s racially discriminatory actions.” He did, however, accuse Taiwan’s complaints about the WHO’s mishandling of the pandemic as racist, Trump noted.
Likely for diplomatic reasons, the president did not mention the fact that the World Health Organization condemned his use of the term “Chinese virus” as racist, even though Chinese officials had fueled a conspiracy theory blaming the U.S. Army for the virus. That conspiracy theory had emerged in China by late February, at least a week before Tedros warned that “stigma is the most dangerous enemy.”
Trump’s last point noted that “The World Health Organization has failed to publicly call on China to allow for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, despite the recent endorsement for doing so by its own Emergency Committee.”
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the WHO has echoed China, covered for China, praised China, and warned against even oblique criticism of China like calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” This despite the Chinese Communist Party’s horrific malfeasance from lying about the virus to ordering samples of the virus to be destroyed, to refusing to take part in an international investigation about the origins of the virus.
It appears the World Health Organization has prioritized Beijing’s interests over its core mission: educating the world about diseases and equipping countries to protect themselves from pandemics.
This grand scandal has convinced Trump that funding the WHO may no longer be in America’s interests. “I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance and organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” the president concluded. He gave the World Health Organization 30 days to commit to major improvements. It appears the WHO has yet to respond to this powerful letter.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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