Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 8 News List


China, SARS and the WHO

Blackmail aside, no one in the world can possibly agree with Beijing's policy that Taiwan must be excluded from the World Health Organization (WHO) because it is a renegade province of China. That position is purely political (regardless of China's claim that it "owns" Taiwan) and has nothing to do with world health.

In fact, if a truly secret ballot were taken, there is no doubt the vote to permit Taiwan to enter the WHO (or the UN, for that matter) would be nearly unanimous. It is time for the world to speak with one voice on this subject, instead of bowing to China's blackmail.

Beijing has vowed that politics should not enter the WHO. It has accused Taiwan of "politicizing" SARS, but of course it is China's political maneuvering that created the spread of the SARS epidemic in the first place, and it is China which has politicized Taiwan's plea to be included in the world's solutions to and treatment of SARS, and any other international health questions.

If the WHO is truly an apolitical association dedicated to world health, as its Constitution demands ("The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition"), then the relationship of Taiwan and its 23 million people with China should not be an issue.

A country known mostly for its heavy-handed brutality when it comes to human rights and transparency should not be permitted to squelch the health needs of the entire population of Taiwan. If China is wrong in its "political land grab" for Taiwan, its position on Taiwan's joining the WHO is heinous because it jeopardizes the health of tens of millions of people. Either way, China is wrong.

If the world speaks with one voice, China will not be able to complain against any single entity, because unanimity speaks volumes. In face of unanimous opposition to its marginalization of Taiwan in the WHO, China must withdraw its opposition (which ought to embarrass it by now) and go along with allowing Taiwan to help its people fight against this scourge that China so callously exported to the world even as it hid its severity. Nothing less is acceptable.

The world is watching right now to see that the WHO does the right thing. Is it willing? Is it brave enough? WHO members must hold a secret ballot under Article 60 of the organization's Constitution, which requires only a simple majority of those present and voting to admit Taiwan. Are the blackmailed brave enough to vote yes? To abstain? Even if China is the only member to vote, it would highlight China's perfidy against the Taiwanese people and its callous disregard for the world's health.

Lee Long-hwa

Pasadena, California

The DPA article ("Who will stand up for Taiwan?" May 17, page 9) has raised a good question. The only answer for Taiwan is to stand up for itself before our allies can be expected to stand up for us. This is true in all cases, including membership in the WHO and the UN.

Taiwan has suffered from a split personality in every respect, domestically and internationally. While many people speak for Taiwan, some politicians and legislators are speaking as if they represented China instead. This is far from what democracy is all about. Have you ever heard anyone saying that the US is part of the UK? Why can't Taiwan and China be more like the US and the UK?

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