The Great Hall of the People has organized many historic events since its construction six decades ago as a symbol of the power of the Communist Party, ranging from the state funeral pump to a giant banquet during the famous visit of Richard Nixon in 1973.
As deaths have started to spread in China due to the coronavirus and fear has grown worldwide, it has been chosen as the location for the key meeting between President Xi Jinping and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, General Manager of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Eight days earlier, Chinese authorities had finally admitted that their mysterious new disease could be transmitted by humans – after initially detaining doctors who sought to alert citizens, concealing crucial data and delaying the help of outside experts .
However, during these crucial talks in late January, Xi stressed that the state’s priority is the health of its people. “The epidemic is a devil,” he said. “We will not let him hide. “
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing on January 28, 2020, before their meeting to discuss ways to curb the spread of a new coronavirus responsible for pneumonia
It was blatant hypocrisy from the head of a repressive regime guilty of dark acts with potentially devastating global consequences.
Tedros, who had prevented WHO from declaring a public health emergency a few days earlier, offered no reprimands.
Instead, he praised Xi’s “very rare leadership” and praised China for its “transparency.” Later, he said the country “set a new standard for the response to outbreaks” and deserved to be “commended” for protecting “the people of the world”.
Breathtaking words from the head of a United Nations agency charged with defending global health. But Tedros and his officials have repeatedly promoted China’s claim to be the hero of this cruel pandemic – and not, as many argue, the villain.
“Tedros praised the manipulation of China, even though it silenced whistleblowers and prevented World Health Organization officials from investigating the epidemic for the first few weeks,” said Kristine Lee, Chinese analyst in an influential American think tank.
“There is a clear story from WHO that gives an idea of Xi Jinping’s point of view on the management of his country by the coronavirus. “
AS THIS virus triggers a global disaster, there is growing concern that the man at the head of a crucial international organization heavily funded by the United States and Britain will promote Chinese interests.
“It is pretty much clear that he is a shield for Beijing,” said a senior source at the British cabinet. “His comments congratulating China on the exemplary management of the crisis are not confirmed by the reality of the events. “
Similar concerns are heard elsewhere, particularly in the United States. Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he was deeply troubled that the organization “parroted” Chinese lies and accused Tedros of “favoritism”.
The Ethiopian, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Nottingham, was previously a high-ranking figure in one of Africa’s most repressive regimes which was strongly supported by Beijing.
He won the highest post at WHO with support from China despite controversy over his tenure as Minister of Health for Ethiopia and disputed allegations regarding coverage of cholera epidemics in the country in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Tedros was also convicted for trying to honor Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus
Taro Aso, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister, is hot in his criticism. He saved the WHO for its failure to protect public health and to support the Beijing spin, concluding that it should be renamed the “Chinese Health Organization”.
Nine days ago, the cause of Aso’s anger was an incident that revealed the extent of WHO’s atrocity towards China and its poor coordination of a rapid global response to this major threat to public health.
It was Bruce Aylward, a Canadian doctor and Assistant Director-General of WHO who led his mission, when he was authorized to do so, in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus broke out, and who has since played a role leading role in addressing the media.
Aylward regularly touts China’s “aggressive response” to the virus, which has even included closing people’s doors to lock them in their homes. He says the government “is really good at keeping people alive” and if he had Covid-19, he would like to be treated in China.
Yet it is the country that has failed to suppress the wild animal markets widely blamed for promoting the new virus, despite seeing the seemingly similar emergence of SARS in 2002, and then thwarting efforts to contain the illness for several crucial weeks.
Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people were on the move for the Chinese New Year celebrations, and a public holiday was held in Wuhan for 40,000 residents.
Aylward condemns those who see China as a “perverse” regime. Yet it is a communist dictatorship that has forbidden families from having more than one child, controls 1.4 billion citizens with a sophisticated surveillance system, assassinates religious practitioners to transplant their organs and locks up Muslim minorities in hell prisoner camps.
China also refuses to recognize neighboring Taiwan. So when a reporter asked Aylward on a video call about the island nation’s laudable response to the epidemic, he pretended not to hear and then seemed to hang up.
Journalist Yvonne Tong recalled, but the WHO official swept it aside: “We have already talked about China – and when you look in all the different regions of China, they have done good job. “
It could have been the cowardly response of a Beijing bureaucrat. Taiwan is, after all, a fiercely independent nation with the freedoms and democracy enjoyed by its 24 million citizens which provide a stark contrast to the life of its neighboring autocratic giant.
“Wow, can’t I even say” Taiwan “to the WHO? “Tweeted Joseph Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, in a shocked response. China wants to reabsorb Taiwan, a refuge seven decades ago for the nationalist forces defeated by the Communists of Mao.
Under President Xi, China has intensified the intimidation of the nations, businesses and global organizations that support Taiwan.
WHO, like other organs of the United Nations, appeases China since Taiwanese passport holders are not welcome in its buildings. Taiwan was even prevented from attending influential WHO assembly meetings as observers.
Other large global organizations slavishly follow the Beijing line, excluding Taiwan. But in the midst of the global threat from the coronavirus, this raises critical questions about whether international policy has hampered efforts to protect public health.
It seems that the new virus started to appear in Wuhan last November to the chagrin of local doctors. On December 31, China reported a group of pneumonia cases to WHO.
On the same day, Taiwan informed the Geneva-based organization that it had learned that medical personnel in China were falling ill – a clear sign of human-to-human transmission. However, he said the information was not shared because the country is excluded from a key platform of the WHO.
Chen Chien-jen, vice president of Taiwan and epidemiologist, said that WHO’s failure to obtain first-hand information on human transmission has resulted in a critical delay. “An opportunity to raise the level of alert in China and the rest of the world has been lost. “
WHO confirms that it received an e-mail mentioning “information on an atypical pneumonia reported in Wuhan, and that the authorities of Wuhan declared that they thought that it was not SARS”, but denies that there have been reports of medical personnel falling ill.
It appears that the Chinese authorities were aware of human-to-human transmissions in early January, even as they detained doctors desperately trying to warn of a possible epidemic and accused them of spreading false “rumors”.
Taiwan sent its own team to Wuhan in mid-January after failing to obtain clarification through official channels, which confirmed human transmission.
There have also been credible allegations on Chinese social media, repeated in online reports, that an infected disease specialist in Wuhan alerted a senior WHO official in Asia because they had trained together and remained friends.
On January 11, a Chinese government respiratory expert who initially said the virus was “under control” admitted that he could have been infected in Wuhan.
Media reports said medical personnel were treated at the hospital for symptoms on January 15. However, on January 14, WHO confidently declared to the world that “Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus identified in Wuhan‘.
Three days later, a WHO official suggested that it was transmitted between humans, which was finally confirmed by China after three more days.
Tedros, director general of the WHO, finally confirmed that the coronavirus was a public health emergency of international concern after his return from Beijing. At that time, the disease had already spread to 18 other countries on four continents.
A few days later, an Australian member of the WHO emergency committee left the ranks to describe China’s response as “reprehensible”, saying that the cases could have been limited if they had not hidden data. Suspicions remain that the true death toll in China is still kept secret from foreigners.
Beijing reacted furiously when countries began to close borders with China. His position was supported by Tedros, who argued that the “small” number of cases could be managed without extreme measures.
Now, of course, the pandemic has crushed the global economy and shut down dozens of countries.
Tedros tried to defuse critics with celebrity approval, discussing the pandemic last weekend with pop star Lady Gaga and tweeting thanks for “his continued efforts to be compassionate and kind to the world” .
He boasted that she was “ready to support WHO in any way possible in the fight against Covid-19”.
So why would Tedros be so sympathetic to China? This may be traced back to his time as a top Ethiopian politician. He held positions of responsibility under Meles Zenawi, who led a brutal dictatorship closely linked to Beijing, who admired the authoritarian model of regime development.
Curiously, Tedros was charged with covering three cholera epidemics in his seven years as Minister of Health, although the complaints were dismissed as a dirty tactic in an attempt to derail his attempt to become the boss WHO.
Shortly after starting his new job at WHO in 2017, he appointed Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador”, but backed down after furious protests from human rights groups stressing that the bully had devastated Zimbabwe’s health services while destroying its nation.
Mugabe, as head of the African Union and close ally of China, had helped him win the post at WHO. Beijing has also used its financial muscle to build support among developing countries, Xi said the achievement was a sign of China’s growing strength.
Some American think tanks have raised concerns about China’s abuse of global organizations as part of its mission to expand its influence around the world – a strategy confirmed by pro activist Lianchao Han -democracy which has already worked in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ”
At first, they just wanted to participate to show that they were a world power. Now that China has strengthened its forces, it wants to dominate and lead global organizations to advance their agenda and model of governance, “he said.
It is not the first time that WHO’s grim response to a health crisis has damaged its reputation. Six years ago, the pathetic reaction to the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people, was strongly criticized.
It has taken months for WHO to recognize that there was an international health emergency, even berating a charity that asked for help. Much of the fury focused on Tedros’ inept predecessor, Margaret Chan, the first Chinese citizen to head a United Nations agency.
The British and American governments fund about a quarter of WHO’s annual budget of $ 2.2 billion, while China donated $ 44.3 million last year.
WHO has been criticized for spending more on travel than tackling some of the biggest health problems. Founded in 1948, it has a huge responsibility, ranging from fighting obesity to preparing for global emergencies, but like other United Nations organizations, it often struggles to balance its competing national interests.
When I asked the WHO if Tedros or Aylward had defended the doctors detained in China, I was told to contact another United Nations agency with a human rights mandate.
Tedros’ behavior contrasts sharply with Gro Harlem Brundtland, a Norwegian predecessor who attacked China for similar attempts to conceal SARS.
But Tedros’ supporters say he takes a pragmatic approach and deserves praise for having skillfully organized a global response to a pandemic.
A source in a funding agency said: “It would have been easy at the start of this epidemic to break up with China, but they would have drawn the drawbridge and shared less data, which is contrary to public health in the sense large. “
Above all, this pandemic proves that the world needs an efficient and fearless health body, but the one that exists continues to fail.
Conservative MP Bob Seely, a member of the special committee on foreign affairs, said: “We are seeing the horrible damage that a pandemic can cause while the WHO pedaled slowly over China. If we are to protect the world from future pandemics, for the good of all people on the planet, it is essential that we have a non-partisan WHO.