US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that Washington would withdraw funding from the WHO, end Hong Kong’s special trade status and suspend visas of Chinese graduate students suspected of conducting research on behalf of their government.
Trump said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the organization to mislead the public about the outbreak.
“We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” he said. “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 organization.
Trump said that the US would be “redirecting” the money to “other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” without providing specifics.
He said that the US contributes about US$450 million to the world body, while China provides about US$40 million.
Congressional Democrats last month said that withholding money from the WHO would be illegal without approval from the US Congress and that they would challenge it.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday described the move as “an act of extraordinary senselessness.”
The WHO declined to comment on the announcement.
At an event later on Friday, Trump was asked about ties with China.
“Well, we’re certainly not happy with what happened with respect to China,” he told reporters.
Tensions over Hong Kong have increased over the past year as China has cracked down on pro-democracy protesters and sought to exert more control over the former British territory.
Trump said that his administration would begin eliminating the “full range” of agreements that had given Hong Kong a relationship with the US that mainland China lacked, including exemptions from controls on certain exports.
The US Department of State would begin warning US citizens of the threat of surveillance and arrest when visiting the territory, he said.
“China has replaced its promised formula of one country, two systems, with one country, one system,” he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday notified Congress that Hong Kong is no longer deserving of the preferential trade and commercial status it has had from the US since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
In Beijing, the People’s Daily said that it was the “firm determination of all Chinese people” to oppose interference in Hong Kong affairs by any external forces.
“This hegemonic act of attempting to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs will not frighten the Chinese people and is doomed to fail,” the paper said.
Attempts at “forcing China to make concessions on core interests including sovereignty and security through blackmailing or coercion ... can only be wishful thinking and daydreaming!” it said.
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