World Health Organization advisor Bruce Aylward ended a video call with an RTHK journalist after she asked him about Taiwan’s status.

At first, the epidemiologist appeared to pretend not to hear producer Yvonne Tong’s question about whether the UN body would reconsider Taiwan’s membership. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear your question, Yvonne… let’s move to another one then,” he said.

When Tong called him back to ask again about Taiwan and its coronavirus measures, Aylward said: “Well, we’ve already talked about China.”

He then ended the interview, which was part of RTHK’s weekly news show The Pulse.

The World Health Organization’s assistant director-general Bruce Aylward (right). Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945, but Beijing insists the island is part of its territory and pressures other countries and international bodies to follow its “One China” policy. Taiwan is excluded from the WHO, though participated in the World Health Assembly – the body’s annual policy meeting- between 2009 to 2016.

See also: UN aviation body blocks users who raise issue of Taiwan’s inclusion on Twitter

More than 618,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19 and over 28,000 have died from it. Taiwan, however, has been praised for its efforts to combat the outbreak.

Aylward has regularly featured in Chinese state media after he led a WHO mission to the country during the outbreak.

He has repeatedly praised the country’s leadership and, at one press conference, stated that – if he was infected with the disease – he would want to be treated in China.


Correction 6.4.20: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Aylward was an assistant director-general of the WHO. He no longer holds that title.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.