Coronavirus: WHO chief accuses Taiwan of 'racist' comments against him

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief has accused Taiwan's leaders of spearheading personal attacks on him.

Tedros said he had been subjected to racist slurs and death threats for months amid deteriorating relations with the island.

Tedros said he has been called names like black or negro. To which he responded, "I'm proud of being black, or proud of being negro."

He said Taiwanese diplomats were aware of the attacks but did not dissociate themselves from them.

He added: "They even started criticising me in the middle of all those insults and slurs.I say it today because it's enough."

Taiwan has denied the accusations, describing them as "groundless".

President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan opposed any form of discrimination, and invited Dr Tedros to visit the the East Asia state.

In a statement on Thursday, the territory's Foreign Ministry expressed "strong dissatisfaction and a high degree of regret, and raised the most solemn protest".

He added: “Taiwan is a mature, highly sophisticated nation and could never instigate personal attacks on the director-general of the WHO, much less express racist sentiments."

Taiwan, which has a contentious relationship with WHO has tried to position itself as a reliable international partner in the fight against the virus since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Taiwan warned the WHO about the possibility of human to human transmission of the coronavirus as early as December 31, 2019.

However, the CECC said that upon receiving the information, the WHO merely acknowledged that the information had been transferred to the relevant department.

The statement added: “Taiwan's 23 million people have themselves been "severely discriminated against" by the politics of the international health system and "condemn all forms of discrimination and injustice.”

Taipei has been barred from the United Nations and the WHO, due to pressure from China which claims the island as its own and even stripped it of its observer status at the annual World Health Assembly.

Experts have said that while Taiwan has successfully contained the coronavirus outbreak so far, lacking access to the WHO could still pose some risks to its fight against the pandemic.

Taiwan has shared its resources and capabilities with the international community over the last few months, however, bilateral cooperation has its limits.

Tedros is not popular in Taiwan due to suspicion he is too close to China and the WHO’s listing of Taiwan’s virus case numbers under China’s, despite it being separately governed.

U.S. President Donald Trump sharply criticised the WHO on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said that under the slogan “Taiwan can help”, the government has announced the donation of 10 million faces masks to the United States, Europe and the 15 countries which still maintain formal diplomatic ties with the island.

Ou said Taiwan would donate another six million masks, to northern and eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and U.S. states hardest hit by the pandemic.

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