US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed British coronavirus victims have died because the head of the World Health Organisation was ‘bought’ by China.
Pompeo’s comments came during a meeting of cross-party MPs at a private gathering, during which he said people had died during the pandemic ‘because of the deal that was made’.
President Trump’s top diplomat claimed Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had struck a bargain with the communist regime to secure his election as WHO director-general.
Pompeo is currently visiting the UK and held meetings with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.
During the meeting with both Conservative and Labour MPs, Pompeo said of the WHO: ‘This is a political, not a science-based organisation and I talk to our experts… they will tell you that there are pieces of it that work.
‘But when push came to shove, when it really mattered most, when there was a pandemic in China, Dr Tedros, who was… bought by the Chinese government,’ he is reported to have said.
‘I can’t say more, but I can tell, I’m saying this on a firm intelligence foundation, a deal was made… there was a deal making election and when push came to shove, you get dead Britons, because of the deal that was made.’
President Trump recently announced America’s withdrawal from the WHO, claiming the organisation was under China’s influence.
The US president has described the WHO as a ‘puppet’ of China, following the cover-up by the communist regime of the initial outbreak and its later failure to contain the pandemic.
Critics have said Trump is trying to deflect attention from his own administration’s handling of the pandemic ahead of the US elections in November.
The US is currently experiencing the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.
Pompeo’s rhetoric has also been aggressive towards China, with the Secretary of State previously claiming Covid-19 leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated.
WHO Director Dr Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian, was elected in 2017, winning against the British candidate, Dr David Nabarro.
Pompeo also privately urged the UK to be tougher on China as he publicly praised Britain for standing up to Beijing.
He used a visit to London to outline a vision for a global coalition to counter the communist regime as he accused its leadership of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to further its own interests.
Yesterday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the suspension of an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, amid anger at China’s anti-democracy actions in the region and claims of genocide against its Uighur Muslim population.
In reply China has threatened to target UK firms including HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover which operate in the country.
Speaking alongside Mr Raab, Pompeo said Boris Johnson’s administration was right to cool off its relationship over a string of human rights abuses.
But he used a prior meeting with China hawks from the Tory and Labour backbenches to say the UK needed a ‘grand strategy’ rather than a piecemeal approach, HuffPost reported.
Speaking at a later press conference he cast China as an aggressor, saying it had made illegal maritime claims, bullied Himalayan countries, covered up the coronavirus outbreak and exploited it to further its own interests in a ‘disgraceful’ way.
‘We hope we can build out a coalition that understands the threat and will work collectively to convince the Chinese Communist Party that it is not in their best interest to engage in this kind of behaviour,’ he added.
Mr Pompeo, who earlier held talks with the Prime Minister and Mr Raab, added: ‘We talked about how we have seen Hong Kong’s freedom crushed, we have seen the CCP (Chinese communist party) bully its neighbours, militarise reaches of the South China Sea and begin a deadly confrontation with India.
‘I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the British government for its principled responses to these challenges; you have made a sovereign decision to ban Huawei from future 5G networks, you have joined other free nations to condemn China’s broken promises on the Sino-British treaty, you generously opened your doors to Hong Kongers who … are fleeing for freedom.
‘And yesterday you suspended your extradition treaty and extended your arms embargo on China to Hong Kong itself. We support those sovereign choices, we think well done.’
He added he would be meeting Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigners later today, along with Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong before it was handed back to China in 1997.
The comments came after The Global Times, a Chinese state-controlled news organisation, cited Communist officials as threatening retaliatory action against UK firms.
The UK was accused of ‘dance to the tune of Americans’ who are urging a hardline approach to the growing super-power.
Citing Chinese ‘observers’, the Global Times noted: ‘In the face of escalating tensions not only with the UK but also with the US, retaliation is always the last choice for the Chinese government…
‘However, if the UK, as part of the Five Eyes, upholds such a hostile attitude toward China, Beijing may have no other choice but to strike at British companies like HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover in response to the sanctions imposed by 10 Downing Street.’
Downing Street insisted it had taken a ‘reasonable’ approach to Beijing after China’s embassy in the UK warned Britain would ‘bear the consequences’ of its decision to extend an arms embargo and suspend an extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was a ‘reasonable and proportionate response to China’s failure to live up to its international obligations with respect to Hong Kong’.
Mr Pompeo, himself a noted critic of China, arrived in a Stars and Stripes mask to meet backbenchers at a London members club before heading to 10 Downing Street.
He was meeting Mr Johnson in a bid to pull Britain ever closer in Washington’s own diplomatic tug-of-war with China.
‘Social distance does not imply diplomatic or political distance,’ Mr Johnson joked as he walked Mr Pompeo into his office in Downing Street earlier.
Afterwards Mr Pompeo tweeted talks had been ‘constructive’, adding: ‘Our two countries’ long-standing, strong bilateral relationship has laid the foundation for today’s candid discussion on issues ranging from 5G telecommunication to our negotiations for a US-UK free trade agreement.’
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Joined by the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and Secretary of State discussed the importance of Five Eyes countries taking an ambitious approach to working together on the technologies of the future.
‘They spoke about shared global security and foreign policy issues, including China’s actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the situation in Iran and the Middle East Peace Process.
‘The Prime Minister and Secretary of State also underlined their commitment to negotiate a strong UK-US Free Trade Agreement that benefits the economies of both countries.
‘The Prime Minister reiterated the need for justice to be done for Harry Dunn and his family. He said there was a strong feeling among the people of the UK that justice must be delivered.’
The range of steps taken by Johnson in the past month threaten to bring an early end to a ‘golden decade’ in cooperation that former Chancellor George Osborne promised on a visit to Beijing in 2015.
London has also outraged Beijing by offering nearly three million residents of Hong Kong a pathway to UK citizenship in response to a highly controversial security law that China imposed on the former British colony last month.
Britain followed that up on Monday by suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extending an arms embargo of ‘potentially lethal weapons’ that had previously applied only to mainland China.
Arriving in London last night Mr Pompeo wrote on Twitter: ‘Great to be back in London to reaffirm the special relationship we share with our closest ally.
‘Looking forward to meeting with Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab as we tackle our most pressing global issues in combating Covid-19 and addressing our shared security challenges.’
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a little-known figure before the coronavirus pandemic, has risen to prominence as Director-General of the World Health Organisation which is spearheading global responses to the virus.
Dr Tedros – who has never practised as a medical doctor – is a career politician who was born in what is now Eritrea, began work under the Communist Derg junta, came to study in the UK, then rose to the top of Ethiopia’s government first as Health Minister and then Foreign Minister before being elected to lead the WHO in 2017.
He is now facing heavy criticism over his handling of the pandemic, especially for praise he heaped on China’s communist party for its response – hailing the regime’s ‘commitment to transparency’ and saying the speed with which it detected the virus was ‘beyond words’.
That has led to allegations – mostly recently made by Donald Trump – that the WHO is ‘China-centric’, a position that the US President has promised to ‘look into’.
Trump has threatened to suspend US funding to the WHO until an investigation has been carried out, while suggesting that they withheld information on the virus.
Indeed, it is not the first time that Dr Tedros has been accused of cosying up to China. Shortly after his election victory in 2017, it was alleged that Chinese diplomats had been heavily involved in lobbying for him.
UN records also show that Chinese contributions to both Ethiopia’s aid budget and the WHO have substantially increased during times when he was in top leadership positions.
Shortly after his election to the WHO, a report in The Times said: ‘Chinese diplomats had campaigned hard for the Ethiopian, using Beijing’s financial clout and opaque aid budget to build support for him among developing countries.’
Dr Tedros – who is married and has five children – was born in 1965 in Asmara, which was part of Ethiopia at the time but is now in Eritrea.
As a child he saw his younger brother die to an infection, which he believes was measles, which he later said spurred his determination to work on health and health policy.
He graduated from university in Ethiopia in 1986 with a degree in biology and went to work as a health official in the regime of Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, while the country was ruled by the Derg military junta.
According to the BBC, Dr Tedros then joined the hard-left TPLF – which started life as a Communist party and played a major role in overthrowing Mariam in 1991. It later became part of the EPRDF, a coalition of left-wing parties that ruled Ethiopia until last year.
Around the same time as Mariam’s ouster, Dr Tedros left Ethiopia and came to the UK where he studied at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, graduating with Masters of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases in 1992.
He then went on to study at the University of Nottingham, where he received a PhD in community health in 2000.
After this, he returned to Ethiopia where he joined the health ministry and rose through the ranks from regional health minister all the way to national Minister for Heath – a position he took up in 2005.
During his tenure, which lasted until 2012, he was widely praised for opening thousands of health centres, employing tens of thousands of medics, bringing down rates of HIV/AIDS, measles and malaria, as well as bringing information technology and the internet into the heath system.
In November 2012 he was promoted to Foreign Minister, and was widely hailed for helping to negotiate a boost in UN funding for Ethiopia, including as part of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
Indeed, UN funding records show that around this time the country received millions in additional funding – including from China, which had previously given little or nothing to support the country.
In 2015 and 2016 China gave some $16million to Ethiopia in spending commitments and cash contributions, largely in support of food or refugee programmes.
In 2011, just before Dr Tedros took up the role, and in 2017, just after he left, China handed over another $44million in commitments and contributions.
Its total contributions outside of this period, dating back to the year 2000, were just $345,000.
In 2017, Dr Tedros left the Ethiopian government and entered the running for Director-General of the WHO as the tenure of Dr Margaret Chan, a Canadian-Chinese physician, was coming to an end.
The election was the first to take place under a system of polling all UN member states as part of a secret ballot. Previously, leaders were chosen by a closed-door vote of an executive committee.
Eventually the field was boiled down to two candidates – Dr Tedros and Briton Dr David Nabarro, a life-long physician who had helped lead UN responses to previous outbreaks including bird flu, the cholera outbreak in Haiti, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Dr Tedros won the ballot by a reported 133 votes to 50, becoming the first African leader of the WHO and the first non-medic to hold the role. His victory came in part thanks to 50 out of 54 African states voting for him.
However, he quickly mired himself in controversy by recommending African dictator Robert Mugabe as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador, amid allegations he trying to repay favours granted during the election.
There were reports that the move was also intended to reward China, a long-time supporter of Mugabe, for using its influence to have him elected.
The Times added: ‘China has praised the authoritarian development model of Ethiopia’s regime, which rules under emergency powers and has put down pro-democracy protests.’
During the 2017 election itself, several groups within Ethiopia opposed Dr Tedros’s appointment due to his links with the TPLF and allegations that they stifled journalists and repressed minorities.
Dr Tedros was also accused of covering up three separate cholera outbreaks in 2006, 2008 and 2011 by mis-reporting it as ‘watery diarrhea’, allegations he dismissed as a ‘smear campaign’ by his British rival.
Following his election to the WHO, Dr Tedros vowed to reform the organisation by placing an emphasis on universal healthcare at its centre while also increasing funding.
Further UN funding records show that, during his tenure, assessed contributions to the WHO by China have also risen significantly – from roughly $23million in 2016 to $38million in 2019.
China has also committed to a further $57million in funding in 2020, though has yet to pay the balance.
Meanwhile funding from other major world economies – including the US, Russia, Japan and Germany – has remained largely flat or even fallen over the same period.
Assessed contributions make up only around a quarter of the WHO’s budget, the rest of which comes from donations.
MailOnline has contacted the WHO for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publication. This site also reached out to the University of London and University of Nottingham to check biographical infomation on Dr Tedros, but had also not received a response.
Recent criticism of the WHO and Dr Tedros specifically stems from its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and in particular its perceived closeness to authorities in Beijing.
Dr Tedros visited Beijing himself back in January and spoke with President Xi about the country’s response, returning to give a speech that praised the regime’s transparency, the speed of its response, and credited it with saving lives both at home and overseas.
That is despite the fact that medics from Taiwan – which are not represented at the WHO since China claims it as part of its country – claimed to have raised concerns about the response as far back as December 2019.
Medics told the Financial Times that they had anecdotal evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus, something China was denying at the time and a key factor in turning the disease into a global pandemic.
They claim this was reported to the WHO on December 31, but not shared with other countries. China itself did not report human-to-human transmission until almost a month later – January 20 – by which time the disease had began spreading throughout the country and across the world.
A petition calling for Dr Tedros’s resignation which began in Taiwan has now topped 750,000 signatures.
China has also faced allegations it attempted to silence medics – including the now-deceased Dr Li Wenliang – who first reported on the disease, and covered up early cases.
At his Tuesday evening coronavirus briefing, Donald Trump took aim at the WHO, saying the US would consider suspending funding to the organisation until an investigation is carried out.
‘They called it wrong, they missed the call,’ he said, adding: ‘They should have known and they probably did know,’ suggesting the WHO was withholding information about the coronavirus.
‘The WHO, that’s the World Health Organization, receives vast amounts of money from the United States and we pay for a majority, the biggest portion of their money, and they actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it,’ Trump said near the top of the briefing.
‘And they were wrong. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things.
‘And they had a lot of information early and they didn’t want to – they seemed to be very China centric,’ he said.
Dr Hans Kluge – the WHO’s regional director for Europe – defended the organization.
He said: ‘We are now in an acute phase of the pandemic – now is not the time to cut back on funding.’
He also said his administration would look into whether the US would withdraw its $513m funding.
Coronavirus has now infected at least 1.4million worldwide and killed more than 80,000 – though these figures are widely believed to be under-estimates.