Tsai invites WHO chief to Taiwan amid ‘attack campaign’ controversy

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, CNA file photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday invited World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to visit Taiwan amid growing controversy over his claim the day before that Taiwan is behind a campaign of personal attacks against him.

In a press briefing Wednesday (Central European Time), Tedros — an Ethiopian microbiologist and the first African to lead the public health body — said he had been the victim of racially abusive attacks emanating from Taiwan, and said that the country’s foreign ministry, rather than disavowing the attacks, actually stepped up its criticism of him.

“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan. We need to be honest,” he said.

Tsai responded Thursday in an English-language Facebook post, writing that “I strongly protest the accusations today that Taiwan is instigating racist attacks in the international community. Taiwan has always opposed all forms of discrimination.”

“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,” she continued.

Tsai then invited Tedros to visit Taiwan, where she said he could “experience for himself” Taiwan’s commitment to international engagement and efforts to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“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, adding that the WHO “will only truly be complete if Taiwan is included.”

針對台灣被指控在國際社會上發動種族歧視攻擊的言論,我要表達強烈的抗議。請大家把真相轉給世界各國的朋友。同時,我也歡迎網路上的朋友幫忙翻譯成各國語言,讓我們一起透過網路向世界說明台灣的立場:  I strongly protest the…

蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen 发布于 2020年4月8日周三

Tsai’s remarks came after several Taiwanese government offices spoke out in protest over Tedros’ remarks.

At a press conference Thursday, Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka dismissed the accusations, saying that “disinformation spreads faster than a virus.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), meanwhile, issued a press release calling on the WHO chief to retract his comments, which it called “utterly baseless.”

“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,” the ministry added in an English-language Twitter post.

Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO has become a major point of contention during the COVID-19 coronovirus pandemic, as the government has called for public health to be put above political considerations.

The WHO, meanwhile, said that Taiwanese experts are participating in the organization’s response efforts and are accessing its information, albeit in an unofficial capacity.

Taiwan participated in the WHO’s policy-making body — the World Health Assembly — as an observer from 2009-2016 under the designation “Chinese Taipei,” when relations between Beijing and Taipei were better under Taiwan’s previous Kuomintang ruling party, which accepts the concept that the two sides are part of one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.

Since 2017, however, Taiwan has been excluded from the body due to opposition from China, which objects to Taiwan’s current ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s rejection of that concept.

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