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Taiwan Denies WHO Chief's Accusations of Racism

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FILE - World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a briefing at WHO headquaters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 2, 2020.

Taiwan is pushing back against accusations by the director-general of the World Health Organization that racist attacks aimed at him came from the island.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Wednesday accused Taiwan's Foreign Ministry of being linked to a months-long campaign against him amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ethiopian-born microbiologist and researcher is the first African to head the United Nations global health agency.

President Tsai Ing-wen took issue with Tedros’ remarks in a statement posted on her Facebook page Thursday. She said Taiwan knows about being discriminated against and isolated, referencing its exclusion from WHO and other international bodies due to pressure from China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province.

President Tsai said if the WHO chief could “withstand pressure from China and come to Taiwan to see Taiwan's efforts to fight COVID-19 for himself, he would be able to see that the Taiwanese people are the true victims of unfair treatment."

Earlier Thursday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with Tedros’s accusations. In a statement, the ministry called them groundless.

"We are a mature and highly-accomplished advanced democratic country, and have absolutely not instigated our people to personally attack the WHO's Director General, and have absolutely not made any racist comments," the statement said.

In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman did not directly address the dispute, but urged Taiwan not to use the epidemic for political purposes.

Taiwan has been praised among the international community for its early measures to combat the pandemic, reporting just 379 cases and five deaths despite its close proximity to China.

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