Criticized on its “zero Covid” strategy, the Chinese government censors the WHO

“The Chinese Foreign Ministry condemns the statement ‘irresponsible’ by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization [OMS]”, title Lianhe Zaobao, singapore newspaper.

On Tuesday May 10, the head of the WHO made a rare public comment on China’s strategy against Covid-19, inviting Beijing to change it. “As the Omicron variant spreads among the Chinese population and the Chinese economy continues to be affected, the policy of ‘zero Covid’ is no longer relevant”, he said.

WHO and UN publications censored

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ statement seems to mark the crossing of a white line for Beijing. His post on the official WHO WeChat account was quickly censored. Still online but deprived of all interaction functions, it cannot be relayed or commented on. The video inserted in the post has been deleted, “removed due to policy violation”, specifies the social network.

On Weibo, another important social network in China, the speech of the director general of the WHO, published by the United Nations, simply disappeared. Once again, the Chinese-American site China Digital Times plays the role of information hero by posting a screenshot of the deleted post.

In this article, available on the UN website, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, seems to have hit a nerve. According to him, any government would take measures in the face of an increase in deaths during the epidemic. But “these actions must demonstrate respect for individual rights and human rights”.

WHO responsible for millions of deaths

Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replied the day after the statement by the head of the WHO. “China is one of the most successful countries in epidemic prevention and control. This is an obvious fact for the international community”, he claimed. According to this representative of diplomats China, the ‘zero Covid’ policy effectively protects the elderly and vulnerable suffering from chronic diseases. “China has […] the ability to achieve ‘dynamic zero Covid’”, claims Zhao Lijian, whose words are relayed by the newspaper close to the power Huanqiu Shibao.

Its former editor, Hu Xijin, now runs the blog Hu Xijin’s Observations on WeChat. He tries to relativize the opinion of the WHO. “No matter what the WHO says, China bears sole responsibility for its own well-being,” he writes, without forgetting to tarnish the institution:

“Fifteen million people have died worldwide, and the WHO has done nothing but watch. Moreover, as it is the United States and the West that have experienced the most deaths, the WHO still does not dare to comment on the ineffectiveness of their fight against the epidemic. […] Since they point out that the Chinese approach is unsustainable, they should come up with a more effective and sustainable one. But they don’t have any!”

Chinese Internet users are content to relay a statement dated barely two years ago that the Central Discipline Inspection Commission and the National Supervisory Commission (attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) had published on WeChat. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the WHO played a central role in the coordination of global public health, and that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus enjoyed the full confidence of the international community. Two years later, hundreds of millions of Chinese are condemned to confinement, at home or in a confinement center, and neither the UN nor the WHO escapes censorship.

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