Originally published at Hill Times

Reckoning with the WHO’s handling of health crises

Throughout the pandemic, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has starred in Chinese propaganda videos for heaping lavish praise on Chinese authorities, despite the government’s alleged coverup of the outbreak and ham-fisted response.

On April 16, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would halt funding for the World Health Organization. Many believe that this is a ploy to distract from American struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. But a sober look at the WHO reveals that the organization is rife with alleged corruption, abetted apparent Chinese propaganda and coverups, and deserves significant criticism.

The WHO’s financial improprieties go back years. In 2017, the Associated Press revealed that while investigating the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, then-director general Margaret Chan stayed in a US$1,000 a night presidential suite at a five-star beachside hotel. The report exposed that WHO spends almost half of its total budget on travel, including business class flights—in sharp contrast with Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. More recently, the WHO has faced a surge in internal corruption allegations, including schemes attempting to defraud the organization for large amounts of money. Meanwhile, the WHO body leading the coronavirus response was left chronically underfunded.

American concerns about the WHO include the organization’s deference to China, such as helping Beijing to disseminate propaganda, downplaying the extent of the outbreak, and excluding Taiwan. All of these claims are accurate.

Throughout the pandemic, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has starred in Chinese propaganda videos for heaping lavish praise on Chinese authorities, despite the government’s alleged coverup of the outbreak and ham-fisted response. Without irony, he praised the “transparency” of the Chinese leadership, and said that “China is setting a new standard for outbreak response”—a statement which is technically correct, given China’s “new standard” of arresting the doctors who spotted the initial outbreak.

Dr. Tedros’ cozy relationship with Beijing resulted in the WHO putting far too much faith in Chinese statistics. On Jan. 14, the WHO parrotted Beijing’s claim that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission, even though Chinese doctors had been claiming this for weeks and Taiwanese authorities warned the WHO about such transmission in December. Notably, this is not the first time Dr. Tedros has been accused of a coverup: in 2017, when he was health minister for the brutally repressive Marxist Ethiopian government, Tedros was accused, by the adviser of a rival candidate for the WHO job, of covering up three different cholera outbreaks—accusations that he denied.

The WHO’s delay in declaring a public health emergency of international concern and advising against travel restrictions were widely criticized as too deferential to Beijing’s wishes. Many nations began cancelling flights and screening passengers anyway—in tacit admission of the WHO’s unreliability. Japan’s deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, went so far as to suggest that the organization be renamed to the Chinese Health Organization.

WHO adviser Lawrence Gostin admitted, “We were deceived. Myself and other public health experts, based on what the WHO and China were saying, reassured the public that this was not serious … we were giving a false sense of assurance.”

Taiwan, which has handled the pandemic with tremendous success, is completely shunned by the WHO, allegedly at China’s behest. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian who serves as senior adviser to Dr. Tedros, appeared to — some say pretend — to not hear a reporter’s question when she asked him about Taiwan. When the reporter repeated her question, Aylward appeared to hang up on her. True to form for avoiding tough questions, last week Aylward abruptly cancelled plans to appear in front of the House Health Committee to explain the WHO’s handling of the pandemic.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute reported that “one of Taiwan’s keys to success was using its own intelligence on the outbreak in China rather than relying on Chinese propaganda or WHO pronouncements.” Indeed, Ottawa seems to be the only party standing that still accepts the Chinese figures at face value: Health Minister Patty Hajdu recently dismissed as “conspiracy theories” claims that the Chinese government’s figures are unreliable. When it comes to self-defeating deference to China, the WHO has company.


[英文] 為什麼我支持香港?為什麼加拿大人也應該支持香港?


Originally published at Hill Times

Why I stand with Hong Kong & why all Canadians should too

Canadians’ press freedom, politics, and education are threatened by the authoritarian overreach of Beijing, writes Alex Lee of Alliance Canada Hong Kong.

The world has been mesmerized with the scenes from Hong Kong’s protests. The shocking footage of police brutality is juxtaposed alongside scenes of strength and bravery against the threats, violence, and authoritarianism of China’s Communist Party. The Communist Party threatens not only the freedom and security of Hong Kongers, but of Canadians and around the world.

Hong Kong matters to Canadians, not only because it is a global financial centre and trading hub, or that there are more Canadians there (roughly 300,00) than in Windsor, Ont., or Saskatoon. (Both Canadian cities have a population of under 300,000.) Hong Kong is also on the front lines of a global stealth war waged by the Communist Party—a war that Canadians are a part of, whether we realize it or not. As per David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, the party is “the greatest threat to human freedom on the planet.”

In the past two years alone, the Chinese government has kidnapped Canadian citizens, threatened punitive measures against Canada, conducted widespread industrial espionage against Canadian firms, and marshalled attacks on students in Canadian university campuses. Canadians’ press freedom, politics, and education are threatened by the authoritarian overreach of Beijing.

There is a more personal reason why Hong Kong matters. I grew up in Toronto during the 1990s, when thousands of Hong Kong families, fearful of their city’s 1997 return to Chinese control, immigrated to Canada. These immigrants and their children became my cherished childhood friends, and remain as such today.

The woman shot in the eye by a Hong Kong police officer could easily have been Ellie, the first friend I made in kindergarten at a Toronto-area Christian Academy. When riot police indiscriminately beat passengers on the Hong Kong metro, one of the victims could have been Edward, who moved to Canada at seven years old and was delighted when he saw his first snowfall.

The fact that Ellie and Edward grew up Canadian is an accident of history. They could just have easily been harmed as a result of Hong Kong indiscriminate police brutality. When I see students courageously defending their home, supported by an army of parents and community members, I see them as no different from Canadians. They are standing up for the values enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedom. And, as Canadians, we should stand with them.

Ottawa is belatedly waking up. Senators Leo Housakos and Thanh Hai Ngo are introducing a motion calling for Magnitsky sanctions on officials of both Hong Kong and China who violate human rights, justice, and the rule of law. These should be applied not only in regards to Hong Kong, but the genocide and internment of over one million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. We have not hesitated in applying Magnitsky sanctions against many other countries, and China should be no exception.

China’s ambassador, Cong Peiwu, threatened our government twice against such sanctions, saying that there would be “very firm countermeasures.” We must not bow to these threats.

The Senate is not the only legislative body taking action. An increasing number of MPs are speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities and interference in Canadian affairs. And a newly created parliamentary special committee will probe the increasingly strained Canada-China relationship.

Although all Liberals voted against the committee’s creation in December, a Liberal MP told me privately that they, and some of their colleagues, were supportive of the motion. And thankfully so: defending human rights, national security, and combatting foreign interference must not be partisan issues. Parliament is taking action, and our leaders are unifying against the threat from China’s Communist Party. Belatedly, we’re all beginning to stand with Hong Kong, as they have stood by us. Canadians, Hong Kongers, and the world will be better for it.