Wed, May 15, 2002 - Page 8 News List

WHO lobby trip a lot of work, no pleasure

By Chung Kun-chin 鐘坤井

On May 7, a group of PFP legislators charged that mobilizing the public to go to Geneva to push for Taiwan's entry into the WHO is a waste of public funds. They labeled the campaign a "pleasure trip for vote captains" intended to reward certain doctors who obviously favor Taiwan independence.

These people clearly don't understand the history of Tai-wan's efforts to join the WHO, and their allegations about grassroots mobilization for this cause are ridiculous.

In 1972, when Taiwan withdrew from the WHO, official contact with the organization was lost, making it very difficult to maintain links with the world on health issues. Taiwan's authorities were left with no immediate way to learn of threats to public health and no way to act promptly to guard against such threats. For these reasons, Academia Sinica member Lee Chen-yuan (李鎮源), the founder of the Medical Professionals Alliance (醫界聯盟), started a drive to support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's highest decision-making body, as an observer.

Since this movement started in 1997, grassroots medical organizations have been at its heart. All the participants have acted voluntarily, using their own funds and soliciting donations, mobilizing friends in the medical community at home and abroad, and lobbying the US Congress and other relevant bodies. We have been working without complaint or regret, year after year, for six years.

Our grassroots medical lobbying delegations have accompanied government representatives to Geneva to attend the WHA meeting. Time after time, China has interfered with Taiwan's efforts to apply for observer status. Every year Taiwan's bid fails to even make the agenda.

Finally, in the last two years, due to the hard work and careful planning of our grassroots delegation, which has accompanied the government's inter-ministerial team, we have received the support of US President George W. Bush. The US Congress passed a resolution supporting Taiwan's participation in the WHO and the international community is taking our cause seriously. Voices continue to emerge from around the world in support of Taiwan's becoming an observer to the assembly, proving the effectiveness of our efforts.

The strange thing is that just as support for Taiwan from the international community is growing and China is feeling severe pressure, noises are emerging from the pro-unification faction within Taiwan, especially the PFP. One can't help but wonder whether they are acting as pawns for China.

It is perfectly right for elected public representatives to closely monitor the public purse. If the PFP has crossed the line by scheming to unite with the communists against Taiwan, the people will inevitably cast them aside. Last year, a PFP legislator-at-large known as the "hospital legislator" also participated in the delegation's activities. If there was any corruption involved, he would know as well as anyone.

The temperature in Geneva in May is below 10? Celsius. A crowd from Taiwan's grassroots delegation demonstrates in front of the main gate of the UN's European Headquarters, sometimes enduring cold rain and bitter wind. They hold their banners, chant slogans and distribute leaflets. It is extremely tough.

Our delegation doesn't need the blessing of PFP legislators, but they should ask themselves how it is possible that our passion for Taiwan, our willingness to make sacrifices for Taiwan and the fact that we have never requested government financial support for our activities could be construed as wasting public funds or as a "pleasure trip for vote captains."

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