Taiwan’s fake news and politicization of Covid-19
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in December 2019, Taiwan’s pro-independence faction, the DPP, has politicised the event, using it to further their political goals, in an attempt to garner support for Taiwan to join international organisations as an independent state.
One method that has been adopted is the use of misinformation to villify the WHO, framing the narrative that “Taiwan warned WHO of human transmission, while the WHO ignored Taiwan”
In late March, Taiwan’s MOFA claimed that it had “warned the World Health Organization (WHO) about the human-to-human transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) in December of last year.”
Taiwanese politicians and health officials also claimed that “they alerted the WHO at the end of December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the new virus but said its concerns were not passed on to other countries.”
On April 10, the WHO denied Taiwan’s accusations, saying that they had only received an email from Taiwan on December 31 that was asking for more information and made “no mention in this mail of human-to-human transmission”. The WHO also challenged Taiwan authorities to show how they had warned the WHO of human-to-human transmission.
Faced with this rebuttal, Taiwan’s Ministry of Health was forced to post the contents of the email they sent that supposed warned of human transmission.
The contents of the email essentially confirm the WHO’s statement, that Taiwan had only sent a simple query for more information. Nowhere in the email was it mentioned that the virus was human-to-human transmissible nor did Taiwan authorities present any evidence to suggest so.
Taiwan’s CDC attempted to justify their claims by saying that because they mentioned “atypical pneumonia”, health officials would be able to discern the possibility of human transmission
Taiwan authorities’ claims that they had warned of human-to-human transmissibility as early as 31 December, were obviously an outright lie. Or at the very least, highly uncredible and misleading.
Nevertheless, the damage has been done to WHO’s credibility. The Taiwan government’s selfish politicisation of the virus may have indirectly led to more infections and deaths as WHO efforts to curb the virus lose steam.
This is especially true in the US, where government figures such Donald Trump and the US State Department, who propagated the false narrative, accusing the WHO of “putting politics first by ignoring Taiwan’s warning in late December, and thus helping Beijing conceal the pandemic’s gravity.”
Later on, Donald Trump attempted to use the narrative to justify permanantly pulling the US out of the WHO and ceasing funding of the organisation.
Rather than justify Taiwan’s entry to the WHO and other international organisations, this politicization has shown that Taiwan is not the moral, transparent state that it claims to be, rather one that has no qualms lying and indirectly causing deaths for its own selfish political goals.