President Trump on Friday announced that the U.S. is “terminating” its relationship with the embattled World Health Organization (WHO) over its failure to enact reforms in the face of U.S. concerns over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its pro-China bias.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said.
It came as part of a press conference in which Trump announced a number of measures aimed primarily at China in response to its conduct on a number of fronts including trade, the coronavirus and its recent incursions into freedoms in Hong Kong.
“The world is now suffering as a result of the misfeasance of the Chinese government,” Trump said.
Trump froze U.S. funding to the WHO this month, and threatened to make it permanent if the organization did not enact “major substantive reforms.” The U.S. had been the top contributor to the agency to the tune of approximately $450 million a year. China meanwhile pays approximately $50 million a year — although Beijing had recently announced a $2 billion injection of funds.
The U.S. has raised concerns about WHO officials’ praise of Chinese “transparency,” its ignoring of warnings from Taiwan, and its repetition of Chinese claims that the virus could not be spread from person-to-person. Trump has also pointed to the opposition by WHO officials to Trump’s decision to place a travel ban on China in the initial days of the crisis.
“Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities,” he said. “Countless lives have been taken and profound economic hardship has been inflicted across the globe.”
Targeting the Chinese directly, Trump said he will issue a proclamation to secure university research and to “suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China who we have identified as a potential security risk.”
Trump accused China of “smothering” freedom in Hong Kong, with its recent national security law that would shut down opposition and criminalize anti-government movements such as pro-democracy demonstrations seen in the territory in recent years.
The State Department this week reported to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous after a number of moves by Beijing to shut down the freedoms that were agreed to as part of the 1997 handover of the territory by the British.
Trump said the move by Beijing was a “plain violation” of its treaty obligations: “China has replaced its promised formula of ‘one country two systems’ with ‘one country one system.’”
Trump announced that the U.S. will be eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment “from our extradition treaty to our export controls on dual use technologies and more with few exceptions.”
Trump also said the State Department’s travel advisory for Hong Kong would be revised to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese. Additionally, the U.S. is revoking Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory, and taking steps to sanction officials involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“The rest of the world was electrified by a sense of optimism that Hong Kong was a glimpse of China’s future, not that Hong Kong would grow into a reflection of China’s past,” he said.