A CIA report says China threatened to stop cooperating with the WHO’s coronavirus investigation if the organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency, according to Newsweek.
The alleged delay came at a crucial time in January, as the virus was spreading around the world undetected and China was stockpiling medical equipment and protective gear made in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The shock allegation comes as more than 82,000 Americans have died of the virus that originated in Wuhan, China last year, and the claims are likely to further fray tense relations between Washington and Beijing.
The contents of the the CIA document, called ‘U.N.-China: WHO Mindful But Not Beholden to China,’ were confirmed to Newsweek by two U.S. intelligence officials.
It is the second Western intelligence report to indicate that China strong-armed the WHO into downplaying the risks of the epidemic, after a German intelligence document reported by Der Spiegel suggested that Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally pressured WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (left) and Chinese leader Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing on January 28, 2020
The German newspaper cited intelligence from the country’s Federal Intelligence Service, known as the ‘Bundesnachrichtendienst’ (BND).
According to the BND: ‘On January 21, China’s leader Xi Jinping asked WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to hold back information about a human-to-human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning.
‘The BND estimates that China’s information policy lost four to six weeks to fight the virus worldwide’.
The WHO released a statement shortly after the publication of the shock claims, calling them ‘unfounded and untrue’.
The WHO did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com about the CIA document, but told Newsweek: ‘We don’t comment on specific discussions with member states but we can say that at all times during the pandemic WHO has acted in accordance with its mandate as an evidence-based technical organization focusing on protecting all people, everywhere.’
‘WHO bases its recommendations on science, public health best practices, evidence, data, and the advice of independent experts,’ the statement added.
A German intelligence document reported by Der Spiegel suggested that Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally pressured WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (above)
The WHO said that Tedros did not communicate with Xi on Jan 20, 21 or 22, but that Tedros met with Xi in Beijing on January 28.
The WHO finally declared coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, though the announcement was quick to insist that China was not to blame, and praise China’s handling of the crisis.
‘Let me be clear: This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,’ Tedros said at the time.
On Saturday, Beijing issued a 30-page, 11,000-word screed blasting what it called the ‘preposterous allegations’ about its handling of the outbreak.
‘As Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all the time and fool all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,’ the article’s prologue said, citing the former American president.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also accused China of withholding virus samples he said were needed for vaccine research – as President Donald Trump insisted earlier this week there is enough evidence to prove President Xi’s regime misled the global community.
Back in April, the Trump Administration alleged the WHO was becoming a tool of ‘Chinese propaganda’, and the president moved to halt funding of the organisation.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is seen in January. Multiple intelligence reports have called into question his administration’s transparency during the early stages of the outbreak
Last week, the President launched a fresh attack on the organisation during a Fox News virtual town hall meeting.
‘The World Health organisation has been a disaster everything they said was wrong and they’re China-centric,’ he stated at the event, held last Monday.
‘All they do is agree with China, whatever China wants to do. So our country, perhaps foolishly in retrospect has been paying $450million a year to the World Health Organisation and China’s been paying $38million a year but they were more political than all of our leaders previously.
‘What they did, what World Health did, was they missed every single call and we’re not going to put up with it.’
China’s lengthy rebuttal gave a timeline of how it allegedly provided information to the world in a ‘timely’, ‘open and transparent’ manner to rebuke suggestions it had been slow to sound the alarm.
Keen to dispel suggestions the virus was deliberately created at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it claimed all evidence shows Covid-19 is not man-made while insisting the institute is not capable of synthesizing a new virus.
U.S. intelligence officials have never believed that the virus was artificially lab-created, but many suspect that it may have escaped during experiments with naturally occurring bat coronaviruses that are documented to have taken place at the lab in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, a Department of Homeland Security report shared on Sunday revealed US officials believe China ‘intentionally concealed the severity’ of the pandemic in early January and hoarded medical supplies.
US intelligence sources believe coronavirus may have escaped from this lab in Wuhan, which was conducting experiments on bat coronaviruses
The four-page report dated May 1 that was obtained by the Associated Press notes that China downplayed the virus publicly but increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies.
The document accuses China of covering their tracks by ‘denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data.’
It lends weight to a leaked dossier drawn up by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance which describes how Beijing made whistleblowers ‘disappear’, destroyed early virus samples and scrubbed the internet of any mention of the disease in the early stages.
The 15-page document brands Beijing’s secrecy over the pandemic an ‘assault on international transparency’ and points to cover-up tactics deployed by the regime.
It claims that the Chinese government silenced its most vocal critics and scrubbed any online scepticism about its handling of the health emergency from the internet.
China has roundly come under fire for suppressing the scale of its early outbreak which did not afford other nations time to react before the disease hit their shores.
Five Eyes – the pooling of intelligence by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – laid bare its scathing assessment of the Xi’s administration in a memo obtained by the Australian Saturday Telegraph.
It describes how Beijing was outwardly downplaying the outbreak on the world stage while secretly scrambling to bury all traces of the disease.
More than four million people around the world have contracted the highly contagious virus, and at least 291,000 have died.