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GOP lawmakers raise questions about WHO's coronavirus timeline

GOP lawmakers raise questions about WHO's coronavirus timeline
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A group of House Republicans is raising questions about an apparent discrepancy between the World Health Organization's (WHO) English- and Chinese-language websites, saying the global health body has been slow to provide updates for non-English speakers about early reports on the coronavirus.

Republicans have been highly critical of the WHO’s initial response to COVID-19 and misinformation spread at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. The Trump administration announced Tuesday it plans to withdraw from the United Nations organization over its response and relationship with China.

Lawmakers on the House GOP's China task force are now raising concerns that the WHO failed to update its non-English website to note that it first learned of the deadly virus from a media statement posted online by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission rather than its initial assertion it was alerted to the spread of COVID-19 by Chinese officials in late December.

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The WHO updated the English version of its website with the information on June 29, but Voice of America first reported that the U.N. body's official Chinese website did not reflect the changes.

House Republicans have blasted the apparent discrepancy as an attempt to shield information from Chinese audiences in an alleged effort to appease the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“It’s troubling the WHO has not updated their timeline on their non-English sites so that the world can know the truth; the Chinese Communist Party did not alert the WHO about the outbreak as they have previously claimed, in violation of the International Health Regulations,” said Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Pentagon prepping for Trump order to draw down in Afghanistan, Iraq | Questions swirl after DOD purge | 10th service member killed by COVID-19 Former VOA producer sues US global media agency over termination Record number of women to serve in the next Congress MORE (R-Texas), the chairman of the task force and the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“By limiting this information to English speakers, the WHO has certainly opened the door for questions about why they didn’t provide an updated timeline in the other U.N. languages, including Mandarin, and if this is yet another example of the WHO choosing to appease the CCP rather than report the facts on a global pandemic,” he added.

Rep. Guy ReschenthalerGuy ReschenthalerHouse GOP votes to keep leaders in place House lawmakers call for continued assistance to Lebanon Safe, responsible casino gaming supports state economies at crucial time MORE (R-Pa.) asserted that the disparity between the timelines shows the WHO has played an active role in helping China “cover up” missteps in the early stages of the outbreak, which critics feel could have helped stop the spread of the virus.

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“We forced them to admit this. The fact that they've only changed it in the English version of their site and not the Mandarin version shows you they’re still kowtowing to the CCP. they're still parroting the CCP’s message, and it shows you to what degree the CCP has taken over the World Health Organization,” Reschenthaler told The Hill. 

“I know that sounds drastic, but [WHO Director-General] Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus] was their hand-picked director, and Tedros has continued to do the CCP's bidding, not only in messaging on this virus but also on how it was handled,” he added.

GOP lawmakers have argued that China’s failure to directly report the virus to the WHO is in direct violation of the organization’s mandates and procedures.

Several Republicans also noted that the revisions to the English website came shortly after the lawmakers released an interim report on their probe into the origins of the coronavirus, which indicated that the CCP did not alert the specialized U.N. agency as required under its current policy.

The CCP slammed the GOP report and McCaul personally during a press conference on Monday, alleging that House Republicans' findings are an attempt to smear China and "deflect the U.S. government’s responsibility for incompetent response."

Rep. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud Trump's cyber firing stirs outrage Democrat concedes in competitive Virginia race MORE (R-Va.) said the WHO’s recent changes raise questions about corruption and the agency’s agenda. 

“Being on the China task force, we've been privy, you know, to briefings and information that maybe others haven't been privy to and some of the things seemed like rank incompetence by the WHO, and the changes that they've made, even now the quiet change about their initial reports on COVID, really suggests how they've been an issue from the beginning,” he said.  

“So I think we're to a point now that we've identified that the WHO is either wholly incompetent or there's another agenda,” he continued. “That agenda could be financial. That agenda could be something that we don't see that I can't discuss at this point.”

The GOP china task force is slated to release its full report in October.

While the WHO has faced strong scrutiny from Republicans for its handling of the virus, several members on both sides of the aisle have raised concerns about the United States’s pulling out of the organization — which is expected to go into effect on July 6, 2021 — with some voicing it could be counterproductive in making reforms to the agency and could also have negative implications as countries look to coordinate efforts on finding a vaccine. 

“I understand the frustration. I just think we could fix it or at least identify the issues from the inside based on the fact that we're the No. 1 funder of the WHO,” Riggleman said.