US president Donald Trump escalated his attacks on China on Friday, announcing that the United States would permanently terminate its relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO) over its relationship with Beijing.
In a strongly worded press statement delivered in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump said that the “world needs answers from China” over the outbreak of coronavirus and accused the WHO of being in “control” of China.
“China has total control over the World Health Organisation despite paying only $40 million a year,” he claimed, compared with the $400 million (€360 million) annual contribution by the United States. He said the US contribution to the agency would go “to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” he said.
“China’s cover up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost over 100,000 American lives and more than a million lives worldwide.”
The announcement was part of a wide-ranging package of measures unveiled by Mr Trump against China at the White House, following mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
Hong Kong treatment
In a move that could have major implications for Hong Kong’s status as a global financial sector, Mr Trump announced that the US would no longer give the region preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel area to China.
Hong Kong has long had special treatment under American law because of its semi-autonomous standing within China under the treaty that was signed by Britain and China at the time of the handover in 1997. But Mr Trump said that the US no longer considers Hong Kong a separate territory following the new national security legislation introduced by Beijing this week.
“This is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, the people of China and the people of the world,” he said.
In addition, Mr Trump announced that certain categories of immigrants from China including students and scientific researchers would be banned from entering the United States, asserting that “for years the government of China has conducted illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets of which there are many.”
The White House issued a presidential proclamation later on Friday unveiling plans to suspend immigration but said the action “will not affect students who come to the United States for legitimate reasons.”
Similarly, Mr Trump directed a working group to examine if Chinese companies listed on US financial markets should be subject to additional restrictions.
Relations between the United States and China have deteriorated since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which has been traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan. But so far Mr Trump, who has often emphasised his good personal relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, had refrained from punitive action.
The two countries had already been locked in a trade war before the outbreak of the virus which has impacted both the US and Chinese economy.
Mr Trump has also sought to portray his likely presidential rival in November election, Joe Biden, as a friend to China with the Trump re-election campaign running ads in recent weeks labelling the former vice president “Beijing Biden.”
Mr Trump, who was flanked by senior members of the cabinet on Friday, excoriated China who he said had “ripped off America”.
“China raided our factories, offshored our jobs, gutted our industries stole our intellectual property,” he said,