US President Donald Trump severs ties with WHO over virus

Updated: May 31, 2020, 07:25 IST | Agencies | Washington

Accusing the health body of being a 'puppet of China', Donald Trump says America will no longer grant Hong Kong special status

A pro-China activist holds an effigy of Trump during a protest outside the US consulate in Hong Kong. Pic/AFP
A pro-China activist holds an effigy of Trump during a protest outside the US consulate in Hong Kong. Pic/AFP

President Donald Trump said on Friday the US will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organisation over its handling of the Coronavirus outbreak in China and will begin the process of withdrawing special trade benefits for Hong Kong because of the Chinese government's imposition of a new security law in the semi-autonomous city.

Trump, who has complained for weeks about the WHO as the virus death toll surged in the United States, said the global health body failed to adequately respond to the outbreak because China has "total control" over the global organisation. "We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act," the American president said from the White House. "Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating the relationship."

The US is the largest source of financial support for the WHO and its exit is expected to significantly weaken the organisation. Trump said the US would be "redirecting" the money to "other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs," without providing specifics. He said Chinese officials "ignored" their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured it to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.

He noted that the US contributes about $450 million to the world body, while China provides about $40 million. Trump said the administration would begin eliminating the "full range" of agreements that had given Hong Kong a relationship with the US that mainland China lacked, including on trade and extradition. He said the State Department would begin warning US citizens of the threat of surveillance and arrest when visiting the city. Officials said the administration was considering expelling thousands of Chinese graduate students enrolled at US universities.

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