Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Crocodile tears can't erase the truth

A speech on Tuesday by Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi (吳儀) (who is also the minister of health) about Taiwan was a classic example of a crocodile shedding tears. Wu said Beijing is very concerned about the health of its "Taiwanese comrades" and the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic. She said that health organizations from Taiwan were already in China, where information about the disease has been made available to them. Wu went on to remind Taiwan that it is not entitled to join the World Health Organization (WHO) because it is part of China.

Obviously, Beijing decided to make the statement because the WHO had at last dispatched two experts to Taipei to help deal with the spread of SARS. The apparent point of Wu's remarks was to dampen our lifted spirits and quell rising hopes about Taiwan joining the world health body as a result of the arrival of these experts. This shows precisely the concern Beijing has about the health and well being of the people in Taiwan, or rather, its "Taiwanese comrades."

Exactly how much does Beijing care about the people here? Let the facts speak for themselves:

First, the biggest contribution China has made to the health of the people of Taiwan and the world lately is the transmission of the SARS virus. Thank you.

Second, Beijing's leadership deliberately concealed the outbreak of the epidemic, depriving people everywhere an opportunity to protect themselves from the sickness.

Third, even after the first case of SARS was reported in Taiwan on March 14, the government was unable to report it to the WHO -- let alone obtain any help -- because of China's sovereignty claim. In the end, the government finally managed to contact the WHO via the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC). But precious time had already been lost.

Fourth, when the WHO finally decided to dispatch two experts to Taipei last weekend, Beijing decided that living under the threat of the SARS virus was not enough of a challenge for the Taiwanese. To add insult to injury, immediately after the New York Times reported on the dispatch of the WHO team (over Beijing's objections), the Xinhua News Agency reported that the Chinese government has decided to permit the WHO to send people to Taiwan.

The point of obtaining permission from a government would obviously be because it has any right to become involved in the first place. In the present case, it is truly puzzling how Beijing would be able to stop the WHO from sending people here, let alone why Taiwan would seek its approval. So why would Beijing's permission be needed?

But then again, no one should be surprised about Beijing's behavior. In the aftermath of the 921 earthquake, Beijing adamantly demanded that all countries who wanted to help with the relief work and all groups intending to make donations to Taiwan had to first obtain its permission.

No one could take Beijing's claims of helping Taiwan in the present crisis seriously. Just look well it has taken care of its own people.

Contrast Beijing's efforts with those of Washington. The US CDC was quick to offer assistance and it currently has seven people helping out here. Even the WHO's token help, although belated, is still heart-warming. Isn't it obvious who is a friend and who is a foe?

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