House Republicans call on WHO to explain relationship with China

House Republicans call on WHO to explain relationship with China
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Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform committee are demanding answers about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) relationship with China amid mounting congressional criticism of its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the GOP lawmakers raised concerns that the United Nations body failed to prevent China from spreading misinformation that could have helped contain the deadly virus.

“Despite the WHO’s purported mission to operate as an apolitical international institution within the United Nations, recent media reports suggest that the WHO helped Beijing disseminate propaganda, downplayed the extent of the disease, and possibly delayed ordering a public health emergency,” the lawmakers wrote.

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The members questioned whether WHO officials were acting in the best interest of countries around the world, accusing the organization of failing to hold China accountable and slamming it for relying on “false information from the Chinese government.”

“Given the actions and statements of WHO officials during the past few months, we are concerned that the WHO is no longer serving the needs of the world and is instead taking its cues from China. Throughout the crisis, the WHO has shied away from placing any blame on the Chinese government, which is, in essence, the Communist Party of China,” they continued. 

“You, as leader of the WHO, even went so far as to praise the Chinese government’s ‘transparency’ during the crisis, when, in fact, the regime has consistently lied to the world by underreporting their actual infection and death statistics.”

Members of the Trump administration have accused China of covering up its response to the spreading virus, though the president himself in recent days has touted his relationship with his Chinese counterpart and a recently agreed to trade deal between Washington and Beijing.

Trump has floated cutting off funding for the WHO — the U.S. is the organization's largest contributor — but the WHO has pushed back, with Tedros warning in response this week: "If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it."

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In their letter Friday, the Republicans pointed to several examples where they said the WHO posted what turned out to be inaccurate information from the Chinese government, including a tweet stating “[p]reliminary investigations conducted by Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus."

They also pointed to reports that the WHO delayed declaring the virus a global health emergency amid pressure from China and condemned the organization for not moving sooner on calling for actions like travel restrictions.

“On January 31, 2020, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE came under intense criticism when he barred travel from China. A certain politician called the order ‘xenophobi[c].’ In comparison to the WHO’s inaction, the President’s actions saved lives,” they wrote.

They said they feel it’s critical that “American taxpayers’ money is allocated to organizations that uniformly serve the interests of nations across the globe” and not a “communist regime.”

The lawmakers called for the WHO to provide documents and information on all of its communications with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government regarding public health from between August 2019 to now; all documentation and communications on the total number of infections and fatalities caused by COVID-19 in China; and all documentation and communications it had with Taiwan between August to the present time.

The Republicans requested the information by April 16.