Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), attends a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, May 18, 2018. The WHO Director-General answered questions ahead of the World Health Assembly and following the meeting of an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)
On Friday morning, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying directed a flurry of insulting tweets at the United States. “Stop lying through your teeth! As WHO experts said, China’s efforts averted hundreds of thousands of infection cases,” read one she’d aimed at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This was a reaction to Pompeo telling Fox News, “China has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to leave Wuhan to go to places like Italy that’s now suffering so badly.”
#Pompeo said to Fox News "China has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to leave Wuhan to go to places like Italy that's now suffering so badly" . Stop lying through your teeth! As WHO experts said, China's efforts averted hundreds of thousands of infection cases. pic.twitter.com/kHGQqZK9wM
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) March 20, 2020
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus shot back in a now deleted tweet, “By January 3, Chinese authorities had already ordered #COVID19 virus samples destroyed, silenced Wuhan doctors, and censored public concerns online. @SpokespersonCHN is right: This is a timeline the world must absolutely scrutinize.”
In the meantime, China reported that for the first time, there were no new cases of the Wuhan virus. World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took to Twitter to praise the country for this “amazing achievement.”
For the first time, #China has reported no domestic #COVID19 cases yesterday. This is an amazing achievement, which gives us all reassurance that the #coronavirus can be beaten. https://t.co/py3Ka2cbLK
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 20, 2020
The WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11. In a recent op-ed, University of Texas Political Science professor Bradley Thayer and Lianchao Han, the vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, wondered what took them so long “when health officials from various governments alerted them to the widespread devastation weeks in advance.” They maintain that Tedros “turned a blind eye to what happened in Wuhan and the rest of China” and following his January visit to China, they believe he helped Chinese President Xi Jinping “suppress the severity, prevalence and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Chinese whistleblowers were silenced. Some simply disappeared.
The virus has caused death and misery throughout the world and had Tedros done his job properly instead of kowtowing to Xi, much of this suffering could have been avoided. Italy, because the country’s prime minister made the foolish decision to sign on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2019, has been particularly hard hit. Iran, which also chose to participate in BRI, has also been severely affected.
We know that the first infection became apparent in late November in Wuhan. The country waited for over a month to inform the WHO.
China has been vigorously pushing the narrative that the virus was brought to their country by U.S. army personnel who had traveled to Wuhan last October for an athletic competition. It’s such a crazy thing to lie about but, unfortunately, it’s resonating in some parts of the world. It’s resonating with those who want it to be true, for example, members of the U.S. media.
Not only is China denying the Wuhan flu originated in their country, they are demanding an apology from the U.S. for “their lies.”
The other part of China’s propaganda blitz involves telling the world President Xi is a hero who has been providing supplies and medical assistance to other countries. The word out of Italy is that Xi is demanding money for his humanitarian aid.
China’s early refusal to notify their global neighbors about the crisis has made the situation far worse for the rest of the world. Had China been truthful, the virus likely would not have spread so far. Yet Tedros continued to praise China for their transparency.
So why did Tedros allow China to cover it up? Why does he defend China? He’s the director of the WHO, which is an agency of the United Nations. (It won’t surprise anyone to hear that the U.S. is the organization’s largest contributor.)
Thayer and Han argue that, “When he should have been focusing on global counter-pandemic efforts, Tedros instead was politicizing the crisis and helping Xi to shirk his responsibility for a series of wrongdoings in addressing the outbreak.” Additionally, they accuse him of using his position to “defend the Chinese government’s gross violation of human rights.”
Fox News‘ Barnini Chakraborty explains that “keeping China happy has tremendous advantages for not only the WHO but also for Ethiopia, Tedros’ home country.”
For more than a decade, Ethiopia’s economy has been largely dependent on China. Beijing has shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars for mega-projects including a new $160 million national sports stadium in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s largest city and capital.
“China is building the city from the ground up,” Welibuw Buzenehe, a local food merchant in the area, told Politico. “Without China, not much would happen around here.”
China has also become Ethiopia’s largest trading partner. The Export-Import Bank of China put up $2.9 billion of the $3.4 billion railway project connecting a landlocked Ethiopia to the port-heavy country of Djibouti. China’s money was also instrumental in building Ethiopia’s first six-lane highway. Beijing can — and has — taken credit for helping reshape Addis Ababa’s entire skyline with high-rises and sky scrapers.
But lately, China hasn’t been happy with its investments in Ethiopia after projects like the railway line failed to generate the kind of cash developers had hoped. If China pulls out of Ethiopia, the African country’s economy could crumble — something Tedros is desperate to avoid.
This alone is an enormous conflict of interest, but it gets worse. Tedros, Chakraborty notes, is not a medical doctor, nor did he have any global health management experience, yet he was elected as the director-general. Early on, he tried to “appoint then-Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador.”
After allegations of racism, sexism and deep corruption in the organization became public, due to a series of anonymous emails to The Associated Press, Tedros ordered an investigation:
The emails detailed the dirty deeds and were sent en masse to top managers, some of whom were also accused of misspending money intended to fight Ebola in Congo.
After the AP story was published, WHO said it was “aware” of the allegations and has a “zero tolerance for misconduct or discrimination of any kind.”
Then the statement praised Tedros and claimed he had “championed openness, transparency and diversity” since becoming WHO’s chief.
The self-praise had some critics rolling their eyes and wondering if the WHO, under Tedros’ leadership, could be trusted to effectively investigate itself. They also questioned his loyalty to China and how that could top what might be best for the rest of the world.
Thayer and Han write, “The coronavirus pandemic has shown that Tedros is not fit to lead the WHO. Because of his leadership, the world may have missed a critical window to halt the pandemic or mitigate its virulence. The world is now battling rising infections and many countries have imposed restrictions. As leader of the WHO, Tedros should be held accountable for his role in mismanaging efforts to control the spread of the virus.”
But he won’t be.