Tue, 26 May 2020

Taiwan demanded an apology Thursday from the World Health Organization chief 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 Wednesday for unity to fight the disease after US President Donald Trump criticised the global health body and threatened to cut its funding.

During a press conference Tedros spoke of receiving death threats and the abuse - including racial slurs - he had been subjected to since the public health crisis began.

READ | 'I don't give a damn' - WHO chief addresses death threats, racist insults

He largely avoided mentioning Trump by name but 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.

Taiwan has just 380 confirmed Covid-19 patients and five deaths despite its close proximity and trade links with China, where the pandemic began.

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