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Mike Pompeo tells MPs World Health Organisation chief has been ‘bought’ by China

Mike Pompeo held talks with his UK counterpart Dominic Raab on Tuesday. (PA)

4 min read

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told MPs that the head of the World Health Organisation was “bought” by China, as he accused the international body of being responsible for “dead Britons”.

The extraordinary claim from Donald Trump’s top diplomat has been fiercely rejected by the WHO, which hit out at “ad hominem attacks and unfounded allegations”.

Mr Pompeo, who met backbenchers from across the House of Commons on Tuesday, was pressed by Labour MP Chris Bryant on the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of a host of international agreements.

The US has said it will no longer fund the WHO, an international body which coordinates country’s responses to health crises and works to combat disease outbreaks.

But Secretary Pompeo used the meeting with MPs to launch a direct attack on the organisation’s director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He is reported to have told them: “This is a political, not a science-based organisation. 

“When push came to shove, when it really mattered most, when there was a pandemic in China, Dr Tedros, who was... bought by the Chinese government, I can’t say more, but I’m saying this on a firm intelligence foundation, a deal was made… and when push came to shove, you get dead Britons.”

The World Health Organisation told The Telegraph in a statement: “WHO is not  aware of any such statement but we strongly reject any ad hominem attacks and unfounded allegations. 

“WHO urges countries to remain focused on tackling the pandemic that is causing tragic loss of life and suffering.”

Mr Bryant told The Guardian that Labour MPs had been left unimpressed by the comments from Secretary Pompeo, telling the paper: “He said nothing that appealed to our side.”


The outspoken attack came just after the US diplomat heaped praise on Britain for stripping Chinese telecoms firm Huawei of a role in its 5G network.

The top diplomat said “well done” to his UK counterpart Dominic Raab at a press conference — and insisted Britain had made a “sovereign choice” despite US sanctions piling extra pressure on ministers.

In a punchy statement after talks with Mr Raab in London, Secretary Pompeo accused China’s Communist Park of “exploitation” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And he said of Chinese leader Xi Jinping: “Rather than helping the world, General Secretary Xi has shown the world the party’s true face.

“We talked about how we’ve seen Hong Kong freedoms crushed. We watch the CCP bully its neighbours, militarised features in the South China Sea, and instigate a deadly confrontation with India. 

“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the British government for its principled responses to these challenges.”

He said of the UK’s telecoms move and response to a controversial new security law in Hong Kong: “You've made a sovereign decision to ban Huawei from future 5G networks, you've joined other free nations to condemn China's broken promises on the Sino-British treaty. 

“You generously opened your doors to Hong Kongers who seek nothing more fleeing just for some freedom. 

“And yesterday suspended your extradition treaty and extended your arms embargo on China to Hong Kong itself. 

“We support those sovereign choices. We think well done.”


Secretary Pompeo was also pressed on whether he wanted the UK — which has notably shifted its diplomatic position on China in recent months — to do more to confront Beijing, amid disputes over Hong Kong, the treatment of China’s Uighur population and an ongoing trade spat with the United States.

The US official said: “We want every nation to work against that kind of activity, against those actions.

“It's not about language, it's not about words. We want every nation to work together to push back against the Chinese Communist Party's efforts in every dimension that I described today.

“And it certainly includes the United Kingdom, includes every country. We hope we can build out a coalition that understands this threat and will work collectively to convince the Chinese Communist Party is not in their best interest to engage in this kind of behaviour.”

The UK last week confirmed a ban on purchasing Huawei equipment for the country’s 5G network from next January, with a pledge to remove the firm's kit entirely by 2027.

The Government had announced in January that Huawei would have a non-core role in Britain's 5G network with the use of its equipment capped at 35% of the network's peripheral technology.

But major new sanctions unveiled by the US in May which banned Huawei from using American chip technology prompted a fresh safety review by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre.

Asked whether the UK had been “strong-armed” into shifting its stance on Huawei, Mr Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the UK had taken a “clear sighted” decision and talked up “constructive discussions” with the US.

He said of Secretary Pompeo: “Actually the vast majority of the time our views overlap and we work together very well.”


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