TAIPEI • US Health Secretary Alex Azar has attacked China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and said that if such an outbreak had emerged in Taiwan or the United States, it could have been “snuffed out easily”.
“The Chinese Communist Party had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus. But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day,” Mr Azar said yesterday in Taipei.
He is in Taiwan for a three-day visit, billed as the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from the island to China in 1979.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified by force if necessary.
Earlier yesterday, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Mr Azar that China is trying to turn democratic Taiwan into another Hong Kong.
Mr Wu said Taiwan lives under the constant threat of having its freedoms taken away by China.
“Our daily lives have become increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan into accepting its political conditions, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong,” Mr Wu said.
A crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has gathered pace since China imposed a sweeping security law on the financial hub on June 30, with opposition politicians disqualified from polls, and activists arrested.
The security clampdown has caused alarm in Taiwan.
Mr Azar has heaped praise on Taiwan’s democracy, hailing it as a “democratic success story, and a force for good in the world”.
His trip comes as relations between the US and China are in tumult, with the two sides clashing over a wide range of trade, military and security issues, as well as the handling of Covid-19.
As the coronavirus emerged, China did not live up to its “binding” international obligations in a betrayal of the cooperative spirit needed for global health, Mr Azar said, wearing a face mask as he has done for all his public events in Taiwan.
The Chinese Communist Party had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus. But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day.
U.S. HEALTH SECRETARY ALEX AZAR
“I believe it is no exaggeration to say that if this virus had emerged in a place like Taiwan or the United States, it might have been snuffed out easily – rapidly reported to public health authorities, who would have shared what they knew with health professionals and with the general public,” he said.
“Instead, Beijing appears to have resisted information sharing, muzzling doctors who spoke out and hobbling the world’s ability to respond.”
The US has the highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in the world, while Taiwan has been praised by health experts for its early and effective steps to control the outbreak, with only 480 infections, including seven deaths.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE