by Joshua Wong, Glacier Kwong
As the world is busy helping each other out of the pandemic, China has been just as busy with attention-seeking behaviour – requesting expressions of gratitude from other countries whilst also engaging in a sinister disinformation and propaganda campaign. Beijing is very determined to keep all the spotlight on itself, ensuring that no-one else – especially Taiwan – takes any praise from the international community.
A million face masks from Taiwan arrived at Frankfurt airport last week to help ease the burden of the pandemic. However, when Cabinet spokesman Steffen Seibert and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr were confronted with questions from reporters, they avoided naming Taiwan as one of the countries helping out. Instead, they thanked “other countries” for supplying masks.
When a journalist asked whether Beijing was behind their decision not to name Taiwan, Adebahr said she was unaware of any such situation, while Seibert added he was unable to say anything about the reporter’s enquiry.
Such behaviour reminds us of when Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK aired an interview with Bruce Aylward, the WHO advisor who spoke to journalist Yvonne Tong via a video call. Tong asked whether the WHO would reconsider letting Taiwan participate, but she received a long silence from Aylward, who then said he couldn’t hear the question. As Tong asked pressed him, Aylward hung up on her.
Despite Taiwan’s apparent success in responding to the outbreak and its generosity in seeking to help, many remain afraid to engage with Taipei because they know it would upset China. Taiwan’s success stems from its distrust towards China – it was able to avoid a massive outbreak without much panic in society. However, because Beijing objects to Taiwan taking part in the WHO, it is unable to provide support within the system. At the same time, the WHO is calling for the world to learn from China, to learn from its harsh confinement and surveillance, all whilst claiming Taiwan is “racist” for criticising its director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Imagine if Taiwan were able to make use of the WHO as a platform to share its experience with the world – what would happen? Of course, it would be a slap in the face for China. But no one should care about China’s insecurities at this point. Allowing Taiwan into the WHO could save tens of thousands of lives from a virus which – in case anyone forgot – came from China and grew into a pandemic because of Beijing’s lies.
The masks Taiwan sent were an effort at providing humanitarian assistance. Taiwan shoulders its duties as global player and does not await statements of gratitude, because it knows too well that countries dare not say “thank you.” On the contrary, China has sold masks of poor quality and does not stand in solidarity with the world – it initially denied the existence of the virus and it expects the world to rejoice at its propaganda and show gratitude.
It is pathetic to receive aid from Taiwan but refuse to acknowledge them out of fear of upsetting Beijing. China ought to be upset and ashamed about what it did and continues to do. It is time that the world stopped indulging China, especially when this indulgence leads to a loss of lives.
Joshua Wong is the secretary general of the Demosistō pro-democracy group. Glacier Kwong is the spokesperson for Keyboard Frontline.