U.S. official contrasts approaches of Taiwan, China to COVID-19

Robert Destro (photo taken from twitter.com/DRL_AS)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — A U.S. State Department official praised Taiwan’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis Tuesday, contrasting its “transparent” response with the approach taken by China and other authoritarian governments.

Robert Destro, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, made the remarks during a virtual meeting of the Global Cooperation Training Framework (GCTF) — a collaborative platform involving Taiwan, the United States and Japan — which focused on combating disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan’s success in containing COVID-19 has relied on transparency, accurate information and government accountability, and shows that “democracies have the clear upper hand” in fighting the disease, Destro said.

In contrast, China and other authoritarian governments have restricted the flow of news and information, he continued, adding that Chinese officials, in particular, “have been actively engaged in a disinformation campaign designed to sow confusion about the origins and impact of COVID-19 in China.”

China’s actions in this regard underscore the need for effective methods of combating disinformation, such as fact-checking, effective crisis communications and media literacy education, he said.

In addition to Destro, the U.S. was represented at the meeting by Daniel Kimmage, deputy coordinator for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Brent Christensen, the state department said.

Taiwan’s deputy foreign minister, Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), and Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) represented Taiwan, while Izumi Hiroyasu, chief representative of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA) Taipei Office, attended on behalf of Japan, the department said.