A World Health Organization official ducked questions about Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, reviving criticism that China exercises undue influence over what should be an apolitical body concerned with global health.
China considers self-governed Taiwan to be part of its territory, and has sought to limit its international recognition and participation in multinational bodies like the W.H.O. In its coronavirus situation reports, the W.H.O. has listed Taiwan as part of China and referred to it as “Taipei,” its capital city, and later “Taipei and environs.”
In an interview broadcast Saturday by RTHK, the Hong Kong public broadcaster, the journalist Yvonne Tong asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser at the W.H.O., whether Taiwan should be reconsidered for membership in the organization.
At first, Dr. Aylward, who led a W.H.O team to China in February, said he had not heard the question over the video call. But when pushed again, he asked that Ms. Tong move on to a new question. When she tried again, the video was disconnected. RTHK then called back and asked about Taiwan’s performance in containing the virus.
“We’ve already talked about China, and you know, when you look across all the different areas of China, they’ve actually all done quite a good job,” Dr. Aylward responded.
Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, criticized Dr. Aylward’s comments. “Wow, can’t even utter ‘Taiwan’ in the W.H.O.?” Mr. Wu wrote on Twitter. “You should set politics aside in dealing with a pandemic.”
Taiwan has been widely credited for containing the spread of the coronavirus within its borders, despite its proximity to mainland China and the large number of people who regularly travel across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan has recorded 283 confirmed coronavirus cases and just two deaths.
Taiwan last week accused the W.H.O. of not passing along a warning it sent in December, which cautioned governments about the outbreak in Wuhan, the city in China where the coronavirus emerged last year.
Reporting and research were contributed by Neil MacFarquhar, Alan Blinder, Michael D. Shear, Jesse McKinley, Abby Goodnough, Sheila Kaplan, Sheri Fink, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland, Ali Watkins, Maria Abi-Habib, Austin Ramzy, Tess Felder, Yonette Joseph, Raphael Minder and Iliana Magra.