Last week the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, claimed he had been he victim of racist attacks from Taiwan and further suggested Taiwan’s government knew of the attacks and did nothing to stop them. The next day, Taiwan discovered that fake Taiwanese Twitter accounts were sending apologies to Dr. Tedros. The accounts making the apologies were actually based in China:
Investigators in Taiwan say they have found a number of fake Twitter accounts linked to China posting fake apologies to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has accused the democratic island of involvement in a series of personal and racist attacks against him.
Investigators from the ministry of justice in Taiwan said they had uncovered an effort by Chinese netizens to exploit the controversy by falsely identifying themselves as Taiwanese and issuing apologies to Tedros online, the island’s Central News Agency reported.
The posts appeared on fake accounts made to imitate the account of Radio Free Asia, and included apology templates posted by an account calling itself “Radio Free Xuzhou.”
The messages represented “a grave threat to Taiwan’s international reputation,” the investigators told a news conference in Taipei on Friday.
Damaging Taiwan’s reputation is exactly what this is about. Immediately after Dr. Tedros made the allegations about Taiwan, China’s foreign ministry spokesman denounced the attacks:
China opposes politicizing the outbreak&stigmatization, and strongly condemns the personal, racist attack on DG Tedros. WHO has been crucial in coordinating epidemic response&promoting intl cooperation based on facts and science. China supports it in leading global cooperation. pic.twitter.com/dKugtgGyNJ
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) April 9, 2020
So not only did China back up Dr. Tedros’ vague claims (presented without evidence), it seems the CCP may have also generated fake apologies to further solidify the idea that Taiwan was guilty of racist attacks. It’s very similar to the backlash China helped stoke last month over the phrase “Chinese virus.”
For what it’s worth, an Ethiopian doctor who trained in Taiwan said over the weekend that Dr. Tedros’ claims portraying Taiwan as a hotbed of racism didn’t ring true:
Wondwossen Mengistie Ayele, a 31-year-old doctor from Hawassa, Ethiopia, said in a recent interview that during his period of training at Taiwan International Healthcare Training Center (TIHTC) from October to December last year, his personal experience was highly positive.
While Wondwossen declined to comment on the political dispute between Taiwan and the WHO, he said Tedros’ comments had left him “perplexed,” because of his own experience during his two-month training period in Taiwan.
“What I can say about my stay in Taiwan is, the people of Taiwan were very hospitable and very respectful,” Wondwossen said. “We had a great stay there and learned a lot during our stay.”
If Dr. Tedros were truly independent, you might expect he would be concerned that he has become the focus of Chinese propaganda efforts. But if it bothers him he hasn’t mentioned it thus far.
Update: A Change.org petition calling on Dr. Tedros to resign is nearing one million signatures.