UNwatch criticizes WHO's CCP-aligned 'goodwill ambassadors'



UNwatch calls WHO to task for use of CCP-aligned “goodwill ambassadors”. The WHO fails to respond to ethics complaint filed by Safeguard Defenders.


Madrid, Spain – 2020-05-20: On May 19 UNwatch, in a Newsweek opinion piece, brought renewed attention to use of Chinese Communist Party-aligned “goodwill ambassadors” at the World Health Organization (WHO), and scrutinised those appointed during the reign of Margaret Chan, the first Chinese to head the WHO. Chan was appointed just a few years after strong criticism by WHO of China’s handling of the 2003 SARS outbreak. During Chan’s reign until 2017, Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and a former member of the People’s Liberation Army with the rank of major-general, along with James Chau, a “journalist” for CCP-controlled China Global Television Network (CGTN), were appointed “goodwill ambassadors”. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Chau has been busy in English-language Chinese media (CGTN) as well as in some international media, praising China’s handling of the virus, and fending off criticism against Beijing. UN organs have continued to republish Chau’s articles. After completing her second term, Margaret Chan was rewarded by a seat on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory appendage of China’s National People’s Congress.

Before the UNwatch statement, Safeguard Defenders submitted an ethics complaint to the WHO on February 26 against James Chau’s continuing appointment as a “goodwill ambassador” and called for an investigation. Ever since March 15, 2019, Safeguard Defenders had reached out to almost every possible division of WHO on how to file such complaints, without receiving a single response. The complaint was submitted in hardcopy to the relevant body (Office of Compliance, Risk Management and Ethics (CRE)) in Geneva, and was based on WHO’s extensive code of conduct (Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct) guidelines. The code of conduct, it should be noted, explicitly states that it applies to non-staff as well (“goodwill ambassadors”). The allegations against James Chau, based on WHO’s own ethics framework, are incredibly clear with strong corroborative evidence on James Chau’s violations of those codes. As a “journalist” James Chau has been responsible for broadcasts that have been based on, and in themselves constituted, severe and gross violations of human rights, against both British and American victims, perpetrated on behalf of the CCP. The CCP directly controls CGTN through its ‘Publicity Department (also known as the Central Propaganda Department), which CGTN itself admits on its English-language website.

At time of writing, WHO has not responded to the filing of the complaint in any form, not even an acknowledgment of receipt. The code states that should any violation of the ethics policy be found, the WHO may “terminate any contract with the contractor or collaborator immediately upon written notice to the contractor or collaborator”.

A petition has been started by UNwatch to have James Chau removed as goodwill ambassador, and can be found here.


For references to WHO code of ethics, its complaint procedures, and information about James Chau, see the full complaint filed here. Safeguard Defenders release on the filing, and more information about James Chau, can be read here. | @Safeguarddefend |

Top news image