Calls for former New Zealand PM investigating China’s Covid outbreak response to resign

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The woman appointed by the World Health Organisation to investigate China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak is facing calls to resign over her close ties to Beijing.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will co-chair the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which will examine accusations that China failed to alert the world to the looming Covid-19 catastrophe.

But human rights groups fear that Ms Clark’s links to China – in particular her friendship with TV anchor James Chau, a friend of the Duchess of Sussex – could ‘seriously undermine’ the panel’s credibility. Mr Chau’s role as a WHO ambassador is being probed after he was accused of spouting Beijing propaganda.

Human rights groups fear that Ms Clark’s links to China – in particular her friendship with TV anchor James Chau, a friend of the Duchess of Sussex (pictured together) – could ‘seriously undermine’ the panel’s credibility

Human rights groups fear that Ms Clark’s links to China – in particular her friendship with TV anchor James Chau, a friend of the Duchess of Sussex (pictured together) – could ‘seriously undermine’ the panel’s credibility

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark (pictured) will co-chair the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which will examine accusations that China failed to alert the world to the looming Covid-19 catastrophe

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark (pictured) will co-chair the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which will examine accusations that China failed to alert the world to the looming Covid-19 catastrophe

In a letter to Ms Clark, Hillel Neuer, executive director of human rights group UN Watch, said: ‘We respectfully request that you recuse yourself as co-chair of the WHO inquiry.

‘Your close ties with the Chinese government give rise to the appearance of bias which, under international law, are grounds for recusal.’

Earlier this year, Mr Chau posted a selfie with Ms Clark on Twitter and wished her a happy 70th birthday.

Mr Chau, 42, is being investigated by the WHO after presenting a programme on state-controlled China Central TV in 2013 that included a confession by Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator working in China. Mr Humphrey claims it was obtained under duress.

Mr Chau has also defended China’s conduct over the pandemic.

Mr Chau and the Duchess have been pictured arm-in-arm at high-profile charity events such as the One Young World Summit in 2016. Meghan has described him as a ‘savvy and charming gent’.

Mr Chau, 42, is being investigated by the WHO after presenting a programme on state-controlled China Central TV in 2013 that included a confession by Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator working in China. Pictured: Mr Chau and the Duchess

Mr Chau, 42, is being investigated by the WHO after presenting a programme on state-controlled China Central TV in 2013 that included a confession by Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator working in China. Pictured: Mr Chau and the Duchess 

Ms Clark has been a guest on Mr Chau’s YouTube programme The China Current – which is funded by the China-US Exchange Foundation, an organisation with close ties to the communist regime.

In one appearance, Ms Clark criticised the ‘flat-footed response’ of the international community to Covid-19, but added: ‘Let’s except from that the World Health Organisation … [which] has really tried to give global leadership.’

Critics have accused the WHO of ‘colluding’ with China to hide the extent of the initial outbreak.

Campaigners are also alarmed that China President Xi Jinping described Ms Clark as ‘a good friend’ in 2016.

Ms Clark, the WHO and Mr Chau did not respond to requests for comment.

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