• Bloomberg


Taiwan accused Chinese internet users of spreading fabricated expressions of remorse in a coordinated effort to paint Taipei as the source of a campaign of racist abuse against the head of the World Health Organization.

Chinese internet users are claiming to be Taiwanese and apologizing for racist attacks against WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Taiwan’s Investigation Bureau said at a briefing Friday. The fake posts are easily identifiable as they all use identical wording, said the bureau’s head of cybersecurity Chang Yu-jen.

The posts all say the following: “As a Taiwanese, I feel extremely ashamed that we attacked Tedros in such a malicious way. I apologize to Tedros on behalf of the Taiwanese and beg for his forgiveness.” They all appear to be from China-based accounts that mainly feature the simplified Chinese characters used in the mainland.

The wave of posts came after Tedros claimed Wednesday to have been the target of a three-month campaign of online abuse from Taiwan over his handling of the global coronavirus outbreak. He didn’t provide any evidence to back up his claims of Taiwan’s involvement.

President Tsai Ing-wen expressed “strong protest” against Tedros’s allegation that it was behind the attacks and invited him to visit Taiwan.

“Taiwan always objects to discrimination in any form. We know how it feels to be discriminated against and isolated more than anyone else as we have been excluded from global organizations for years,” she said in a post on her official Facebook page. “So I’d like to invite Tedros to visit Taiwan, to see how Taiwanese commit to devote to international society despite being discriminated and isolated.”

Taiwan has long sought to gain membership to the WHO and other global organizations affiliated with the United Nations but has been barred by China, which views the island as part of its territory — a claim Taiwan’s government rejects.

Beijing has a history of spreading disinformation about Taiwan’s government via its so-called 50-cent army, groups of internet users paid to disseminate information that helps achieve the Chinese government’s political goals. Researchers have traced efforts to delegitimize Tsai’s pro-independence administration back to China, including in the run-up to January’s presidential election.

Taiwan has fared better than many countries and regions in Asia in the fight against the virus, with about 380 confirmed cases as of Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Tsai’s government should stop “weaving lies and inciting hatred” and focus on combating the virus, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement on its website Friday.

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