25 February 2018

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05/19/2017 TAIWAN – CHINA

World Health Organisation to exclude Taiwan (under Chinese pressure)

Taiwan students slam WHO for breaching its principles, organise an online petition to have Taiwan represented at the World Health Assembly in Geneva on 22-31 May. Beijing continues its battle to isolate Taipei from the international community after Tsai Ing-wen won Taiwan’s presidential election.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – Taiwan may not be represented at the World Health Assembly (WHA) set to take place in Geneva (22-31 May). Unlike the eight previous meetings, Taiwan was not invited this year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) organises the WHA to study and implement decisions applicable worldwide. Beijing-friendly Margaret Chan, of Hong Kong, is WHO’s director general.

Until now, in accordance with WHO’s principles of “health for all” and “the right to health”, Taiwan was present at its meetings as an observer under the name of Chinese Taipei (like in the Olympics).

The island’s presence was especially welcomed after the SARS crisis in 2003, when Chinese authorities kept the outbreak in the mainland under wraps, causing it to spread to Hong Kong, Taiwan and the rest of the world with some 900 people dying.

When asked why Taiwan was excluded, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier blamed it on poor cross-straight relations.

Since Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the island’s presidential elections in 2016, mainland China has cooled relations with Taiwan. In order to "punish" it because of its democratic and somewhat pro-independence attitude, Beijing has blocked mainland tourists from visiting the island and prevented Taiwan from attending international fora.

At the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s thirty-ninth assembly in Montreal in the fall of 2016, for example, Taiwan was excluded. Before it had participated as a “guest”.

The latest example of Beijing’s blatant interference came at the recent opening ceremony of the Kimberley Process conference in Perth, Australia, on curtailing the trade in conflict diamonds. A rude and unruly Chinese delegation seized the microphone and loudly protested the presence in the room of a delegation from Taiwan.

Responding to the threat of exclusion, Taiwanese college students have launched an online petition calling for Taiwan to be allowed to attend the 2017 WHA as an observer, arguing that WHO should abide by its principle of “health for all” and that it should not discriminate on political grounds.

Lawmakers from various parts of the world have expressed solidarity towards Taiwan and called on WHO to extend an official invitation to the island, even though the deadline for online registration was 8 May.

At a recent press conference, the head of WHO Governing Bodies Timothy Armstrong repeated that the current situation is because of “the absence of a cross-strait understanding.” On a brighter side, Armstrong added that “Negotiations are still ongoing. Anything is possible.”

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