Taiwan demands apology from WHO chief over virus ‘slander’

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Taiwan demanded an apology from the World Health Organization chief on Thursday after he accused the island’s government of leading personal attacks against him and his agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for unity to fight the disease on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump criticised the global health body and threatened to cut its funding.

During the press conference he spoke of the abuse — including racial slurs — he had been subjected to since the public health crisis began.

Tedros largely avoided mentioning Trump by name but he did single out the government in Taipei, which has been frozen out of the WHO after political pressure from Beijing.

“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan,” he told reporters in Geneva, referring to online criticism and insults.

“Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry also, they know the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticising me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care,” Tedros said.

The comments sparked anger in Taiwan, which described Tedros’ comments as “baseless”.

“Our country has never encouraged the public to launch personal attacks against him or made any racially discriminatory comments,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters on Thursday.

The ministry added it was seeking an apology for “slander”.

In a Facebook post, President Tsai Ing-wen invited Tedros to visit Taiwan and learn from its handling of the epidemic, challenging him to “resist pressure from China”.

“We have been blocked from international organisations for many long years and we know what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated more than anyone else,” she said. (AFP)

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