Feb. 7 (UPI) — A petition demanding the resignation of the World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had gathered more than 320,000 signatures by Friday as anger grows in China over the government response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
An anonymous activist using the ID “Osuka Yip” started the petition Jan. 31 on Change.org to protest the WHO’s delayed response to the epidemic, which has killed more than 630 people, according to official estimates.
“We strongly think Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is not fit for his role as WHO director general. We call for the immediate resignation of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,” the petition states.
The appeal pointed out Ghebreyesus declined to declare the Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, a global health emergency on Jan. 23.
“The number of infected and deaths have risen more than 10 times [infected from 800 — close to 10,000] within only five days. Part of it is related to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ [underestimation of] the coronavirus,” the petition reads.
Opposition to the WHO’s response to the outbreak also included criticism of Taiwan’s exclusion from the international body and China’s excessive influence. According to Taiwan News, China reportedly pushed foreign diplomats to withdraw support for a declaration of emergency at the WHO.
China’s dissidents have been active on social media since the outbreak, and more activists may be calling on Chinese President Xi Jinping to resign, according to multiple press reports.
Xu Zhiyong, founder of the New Citizens movement and a human rights lawyer who is in hiding, demanded Xi leave office because he is “unable to handles crises.”
Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Qinghua University, said Beijing’s suppression of free expression made it “impossible” for people to respond properly to the coronavirus. Xu is suspended from teaching after accusing Xi of “tyranny” in 2018.
Xi and U.S. President Donald Trump exchanged a phone call on Thursday, during which the outbreak was discussed, according to the White House.
Trump praised Xi’s response Friday on Twitter.
“Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!” he tweeted.