WHO chief censored in China after questioning zero-Covid policy

Beijing, May 11 (IANS) The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is being censored on China’s internet after questioning the sustainability of the country’s zero-Covid policy, CNN reported.

The censorship on Weibo and WeChat, China’s two largest social media platforms, targets WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ comments that expressed rare disagreement with Beijing’s policies.

“When we talk about the zero-Covid strategy, we don’t think that it is sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Tedros told a media briefing Tuesday, citing the increased transmissibility of Omicron, CNN reported.

“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable…I think a shift will be very important,” he said.

The United Nation’s official press account on China’s Twitter-like Weibo posted Tedro’s comments early on Wednesday morning, drawing a wave of sarcastic comments from Chinese users.

“Resolutely fight against any words and acts that distort, doubt or deny our country’s epidemic prevention and control policies! Down with the World Health Organization!” a top reply said.

“Should the UN’s verified account be blocked this time?” another said.

By mid-morning, the post was no longer viewable on Weibo “due to the author’s privacy setting.” It is unclear under what circumstances the setting was changed, CNN reported.

A Weibo hashtag of Tedros’ name has also been censored, with images featuring his face being scrubbed from the platform, though posts containing his name are still visible.

On WeChat, an article from the UN’s official account that included Tedros’ comments has been “banned from sharing due to a violation of relevant laws and regulations” as of Wednesday morning. Video clips of Tedros’ speech have also been removed from the platform.

Tedros’ comments, though in line with the assessment of most scientists, have also drawn the ire of Beijing, which called them “irresponsible.”

“We hope relevant people can view China’s epidemic prevention and control policy in an objective and rational way, learn more about the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing on Wednesday, CNN reported.