Trump Says US ‘Terminating’ Its Relationship with WHO and Directing Those Funds Elsewhere

indica News Bureau-

During a news conference on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced the end of the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization. Trump said he made this decision because the group hasn’t made coronavirus reforms. Trump had already suspended funding to the UN agency, accusing it of being a “puppet” of China as the global health crisis erupted.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization,” Trump told reporters. “The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” he said, adding that China “instigated a global pandemic that has cost over 1,00,000 American lives”.

The Republican leader said the US would be “redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” He said Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the WHO to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.

He noted that the U.S. contributes about $450 million to the world body while China provides about $40 million. The U.S. is the largest source of financial support to the WHO and its exit is expected to significantly weaken the organization.

Trump also heavily criticized the Chinese government for its economic “malfeasance” while also blaming Beijing and the WHO for the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said China’s economic misconduct is well-known throughout the world — stating Beijing has taken advantage of the United States through decades. Trump said Beijing was not wholly at fault and that previous U.S. administration allowed the U.S. to lose “hundreds of billions” to China.

Trump blamed the “malfeasance of the Chinese government” for the spread of the coronavirus, which he called the “Wuhan virus.” He spread that blame to the WHO. Trump also announced his administration would suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China identified as security risks.

The comments come after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Hong Kong can no longer be considered autonomous from mainland China. Serious consideration of the visa revocation proposal, first reported by The New York Times, has faced opposition from U.S. universities and scientific organizations that depend on tuition fees paid by Chinese students to offset other costs. In addition, those institutions fear possible reciprocal action from Beijing that could limit their students’ and educators’ access to China.

In a nod to those concerns, the officials said any restrictions would be narrowly tailored to affect only students who present a significant risk of engaging in espionage or intellectual property theft. The officials could not say how many people could ultimately be expelled, although they said it would be only a fraction of the Chinese students in the country.

Still, the possibility that the proposal may be implemented has drawn concerns from educators.

“We’re very worried about how broadly this will be applied, and we’re concerned it could send a message that we no longer welcome talented students and scholars from around the globe,” said Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations at the American Council on Education.

“We don’t have a lot of details about how they are going to define ties to Chinese universities, what type of universities are they going to target, what would constitute a university having ties to the Chinese military,” she said. If the situation were reversed and another nation imposed limits on students from U.S. universities that receive Defense Department funding, she noted it would affect a wide range of schools.

The U.S. hosted 133,396 graduate students from China in the 2018-19 academic yea, and they made up 36.1% of all international graduate students, according to the Institute of International Education. Overall, there were 369,548 students from China, accounting for 33.7% of international students who contributed nearly $15 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018.

The proposal to revoke the visas is not directly related to the dispute over Hong Kong, nor is it tied to U.S. criticism of China for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Rather, it is connected to various elements of trade and human rights issues that have seen U.S. officials complain about Chinese industrial espionage and spying and harassment of dissidents and religious and ethnic minorities.

But the timing of a potential announcement could come at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric about the imposition of national security laws on Hong Kong in violation of the Sino-British accord.

The proposal first began to be discussed last year when the administration moved to require Chinese diplomats based in the United States to report their domestic U.S. travel and meetings with American scientists and academics. At the time, U.S. officials said it was a reciprocal measure to match restrictions that American diplomats face in China.

Those limits were followed by a requirement that Chinese state-run media in the U.S. register as “foreign diplomatic missions” and report their property holdings and employee rosters to the government. That was, in turn, followed by the limiting of the number of visas for Chinese journalists allowed to work in the United States.

China retaliated for the visa limitations by expelling several reporters from U.S. media outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times.


Hong Kong loses preferential trade and commercial status

Pompeo notified Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong is no longer deserving of the preferential trade and commercial status it has enjoyed from the U.S. since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. Under a joint Sino-British agreement on the handover, Hong Kong was to be governed differently than the mainland for 50 years under a “one country, two systems” policy.

Trump on Friday said he plans to revoke Hong Kong’s “preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.” The president also said the U.S. will sanction Chinese officials and Hong Kong officials “directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy.” Trump added that he is directing the State Department to issue a travel advisory “to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus.”

Beijing is moving forward with imposing a national security law over Hong Kong that would criminalize acts of “sedition, secession and terrorism” viewed as undermining the central government in Beijing.

Pro-democracy protests have exploded in opposition to the proposed legislation, and it has drawn condemnation from the international community.

Pompeo’s determination opened the door to possible sanctions and the loss of special perks Hong Kong has received from the United States. But neither Pompeo nor other officials were able Wednesday to describe what action the administration might take, an uncertainty related to the impact that such sanctions would have on U.S. companies that operate in Hong Kong and the city’s position as Asia’s major financial hub. Trump’s comments sparked a drop in U.S. financial markets.