Thu, May 01, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Time for WHO to show some spine

Another hospital in Taipei -- the Jen Chi Hospital -- was closed on Tuesday after suspected cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) were found there. Ironically, after spreading SARS to the people of Taiwan, China still continues to block this country's efforts to join the global medical establishment. What is even more deplorable is that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has been kidnapped by Beijing.

The WHO Web site has now become a political mouthpiece of Beijing's. The Web site lists Taiwan under "China" along with Hong Kong, Macau and Beijing. We know that this is China's political untruth. Taiwan has its own land, people, effective government and independent sovereignty. It is not under China's jurisdiction.

Experts throughout the world are suspicious about the SARS information provided by the Chinese government, believing that the official figures are only a fraction of the true numbers. In contrast, they view the information provided by Hong Kong, Taiwan and other places as far more reliable.

After the SARS outbreak began in Guangdong last year, the Chinese authorities repeatedly snubbed the WHO when it asked to send experts to investigate the disease. Under political pressure from China, the WHO buried its head in the sand and swallowed Beijing's political propaganda, relaying whatever Beijing said. WHO's behavior -- helping China disseminate misinformation on its official Web site -- has pushed the organization even further from its objectives.

The biggest blind spot in international politics is that Beijing has been allowed to expand its political leverage on the basis of China's questionable "market potential." Many times, at critical moments, the international community has played an accomplice's role in the oppression of Taiwan. Anyway, expectations that have not come true are called potential. As long as China is poor, it has potential.

Health care should be something that transcends national boundaries and political fences. Unfortunately, the WHO would rather gang up with China and ignore the rights of 23 million people to proper health care. It would rather attach a political tag on the people of Taiwan. One wonders how an international organization supposedly dedicated to humanitarian care could be so cold and unjust in its treatment of the people of this country.

The government has repeatedly asked to join WHO on the basis of humanitarian principles so that the nation's health difficulties can be eased and so it can also share its resources. The SARS outbreak has highlighted the urgent need to let Taiwan into the health body. Taiwan has gained considerable experience in SARS prevention and the treatment of SARS patients. This experience is worth sharing with medical workers in other countries. In the fight against SARS Taiwan will inevitably face difficulties and will urgently need close exchanges with other countries. The WHO is the best platform and forum for such international exchanges.

Since ancient times, epidemics have inflicted enormous casualties on humanity, but mankind has made it through such ordeals. But there's a catch -- the WHO's lack of courage to face up to reality, which has prompted it to condone China's wanton behavior and to isolate Taiwan.

But the people of this nation are not afraid. Nor are they angry with the WHO's ridiculous acts. Heaven helps those who help themselves. But we still can't help wondering whether the WHO is a global body or a Chinese organization.

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