THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS VOICES ANIRBAN GANGULY ANAND NEELAKANTAN AMAR BHUSHAN SHEILA KUMAR ANUJA CHANDRAMOULI MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI MAGAZINE BUFFET PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT MAY 24 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 PRAISE FOR THE DRAGON Jan 14 “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.” WHO on Twitter Jan 28 “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak.” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus with President Xi Jinping Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, DG, WHO Feb 12: “China targeted the epicenter by locking down Wuhan… and that helped in preventing cases from being exported to other provinces in China and the rest of the world.” BEIJING’S PUPPET? Tedros, at a press conference Feb 4 Tedros slams various countries for imposing travel bans on visitors from China, and accuses Western countries such as the US and Australia of inciting “fear and stigma” and appeals to all countries to make “evidence-based and consistent decisions” on dealing with the contagion. Feb 25 “If I had Covid-19 I’d want to be treated in China.” Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO's senior advisor, pandemic expert and former assistant director general, who visited Wuhan March 20 “This is an amazing achievement, which gives us all reassurance that the coronavirus can be beaten.” Tedros, when Beijing claimed that no more coronavirus cases have been reported for the first time since Wuhan May 2 “The world has learned from China and we need to continue to learn from Wuhan on how they are lifting those measures, how they are bringing society back to normal, or a new normal, in terms of how we’re going to live with this virus going forward.” Maria van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, noting that there are zero Covid-19 cases in Wuhan I China WHO? Health diplomacy is the new power in the pandemic-ravaged world. The pro-Chinese policies of the world’s premier health body and its boss are fuelling Beijing’s ambition to replace the US as the world’s top superpower. By RAVI SHANKAR n late January, as China continued its viral descent into endless night, a textile businessman, Fang Bin, in Wuhan found a higher calling—the pursuit of truth. He became a citizen journalist and reported on the grisly drama playing out on the desolate streets of his contagion-blighted city and exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda jukebox that played the tune that all was well; in spite of the corpses piling up everywhere. Five days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech on January 20, urging officials to “reinforce public opinion management”, Fang came across the grisly sight of city buses being turned into impromptu hearses bursting with the corpses of Covid-19 victims. He posted videos of the macabre images—as health workers dressed in white protective gear loaded the bodies, he can be heard in the background counting “five, six, seven, eight... eight bodies in five minutes!” The government promptly took down the video. Fang disappeared. He has either become just another statistic in a Wuhan bus or could be languishing in the bowels of any of China’s infamous prisons for dissidents. A few days after the whistleblower's disappearance, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with President Xi and Chinese ministers. His statement issued on January 28 explained, “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak”. Presently cases worldwide have crossed the 4.7-million mark. At a press conference the next month, Dr Tedros continued to defend Beijing’s line in the face of international heat: “China targeted the epicentre by locking down Wuhan… and that helped in preventing cases from being exported to other provinces in China and the rest of the world.” Incidentally WHO , is responsible for collating the World Health Report, which surveys health concerns around pandemic on March 11. When Beijing claimed in March that no more coronavirus cases have been reported for the first time since Wuhan, Tedros was ecstatic. “This is an amazing achievement, which gives us all reassurance that the coronavirus can be beaten,” he crowed. There have been fresh outbreaks but going by precedent, the numbers do not seem credible. In the second week of May , China reported 17 new coronavirus cases, while 11 million residents of Wuhan underwent vigorous testing. After China’s National Health Commission zeroed in on five new coronavirus cases in Jilin Province two weeks ago, the city remains in lockdown. the globe. An Australia-led coalition of 62 nations, including India, has called for an independent probe into the virus’s origins and the UN body WHO’s response to China’s role. CHINA FACES FRESH IMAGE CRISIS A call for the resignation of Tedros by the Change.org has gathered one million signatures. The WHO’s reputation is in tatters. China needs WHO as much as Tedros needs Beijing. A global pariah by now after its deliberate bungling of the epidemic, President Xi is looking for an image makeover. Who better to give it a fresh coat of paint than Tedros, whom Beijing helped in 2017 to become the custodian of world health? China had successfully lobbied to appoint him as the successor to Margaret Chan, a ChineseCanadian physician who enjoyed two terms as WHO Director General. Global anger against China’s mishandling of the virus, prompted by the Communist Party’s deep distrust of transparency and inward-looking social ethos, has flared up into a geopolitical conflagration. This is not the first time the country is under fire for its poor treatment of epidemics. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, then WHO Director General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland was shocked by its approach to containment through use of state force. WHO historically issued its first-ever travel advisory against visiting southern China. Dr Brundtland accused Beijing of a cover-up, media blackout and persecution of whistleblowers. Tedros’s championship of Beijing’s Covid-19 response is in stark contrast to his predecessor’s ethical stand against a government’s callousness towards the safety of its own people. WHO TOES CHINA’S LINE Is Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus a Chinese lackey? The circumstances are in the pudding. American political science professor Bradley Thayer and Lianchao Han, vice president of the Citizen Power Initiatives for China, have damned him in an article in Hill, a prestigious Washington-based politics and policy magazine. They wrote, “Because of his leadership, the world may have missed a critical window to halt the pandemic or mitigate its virulence.” Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso mocked WHO as “the Chinese Health Organisation”. As the pandemic’s scythe reaped its fatal harvest across China, Tedros sent senior advisor, pandemic expert and former assistant director general Dr Bruce Aylward to Wuhan in February Aylward gloated, “If I . had Covid-19, I’d want to be treated in China.” Tedros had slammed various countries for imposing travel bans on visitors from China, and accused Western countries such as the US and Australia of inciting “fear and stigma” and appealed to world governments to make “evidence-based and consistent decisions” on dealing with the contagion. Evidence was exactly the problem—the Chinese government’s body count was dubious at best. Ironically , WHO’s mandate is “Better Health for All, Everywhere”. Its DG even endorsed Beijing’s claims that the virus is not contagious between humans. WHO tweeted on January 14, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.” It took over 120,000 confirmed cases and around 4,400 deaths in 114 countries for the health organisation to label the crisis a Tedros, an Ethiopian citizen and former health and foreign minister, has a shady past in public life. He is not a medical doctor, nor does he have experience in meeting global health crises. Tedros continues to hold a senior position in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has earned a black mark in the Global Terrorism Database. He is also the first African to head WHO—China has deep business and political links in that continent. As soon as he came to power, Tedros selected Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe as WHO’s goodwill ambassador. Singed by international outrage, Tedros cancelled the appointment a few days later. China had supported Mugabe’s leadership of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle. The despot was a frequent flyer to China; in January President Xi had , assured him, “China will never forget its old friends.” This time, it did. Perhaps Tedros needs China more than ever now. The day after his election, he promised to back the “One China” principle that recognises the government in Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government, which claims that democratic Taiwan is part of the country . Since 1971 when it joined the UN, China has being blocking Taiwan’s WHO membership. Kept out of WHO, Taiwan is forced to depend on heavily censored Chinese data, which is often delayed for weeks. TEDROS SILENT ON CHINESE QUALITY CRISIS WHO has inexplicably argued that masks do not protect people in spite of research showing their efficacy rate at over 90 percent. China’s medical diplomacy is in stark contrast with the treatment of its own people and is meant to shore up its eroding global image. China despatched doctors to Italy Iraq , and Iran, ventilators to France and PPEs to Cambodia and the Philippines. The equipment was not so different from other Chinese products, which are known across the world for cheap price and poor quality . Italy found Chinese masks not up to international standards. The Netherlands recalled its Turn to page 2 GLOBAL ROLE The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, which carries out a survey of health concerns around the world. The organisation is primarily concerned with influenza and infectious diseases such as HIV, and non-infectious diseases such as cancer and heart disease, the problem of potable water and vaccination of children. It helps the world in fighting malnutrition and conducts research on various medical fields. FOLLOW THE MONEY Funding for WHO comes in two forms—assessed and voluntary contributions. The former is from member states and the latter in the form of government donations, private charities and trusts. Its budget, presented every two years, has specific project allocations based on priorities; for 2020 and 2021, it is $2.4 billion per year. It is currently in financial trouble. Dues claims are down to 20 percent of its total funds. The assessed contributions are based on the economic and population index. China’s contribution has seen a 52 percent jump since 2014.
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