Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 8 News List

The battle lines have been drawn

By the Liberty Times editorial

The fight against SARS has entered its most critical phase. As a result of China's bully-like meddling, Taiwan's hopes of becoming an observer in the World Health Organization (WHO) were crushed once again. The people of Taiwan continue to be excluded from the international health-care system. This comes at a time when the epidemic has reached its third peak.

According to the WHO, the spread of disease in most other countries of the world has already eased. Taiwan is now the area in which the disease is spreading most rapidly.

One main reason that the epidemic is getting more serious in this country is that after it was clear that an outbreak had happened here, the government wasn't able to receive assistance from WHO experts early on due to political considerations. In contrast, when Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Canada first began to report their outbreaks, the WHO immediately offered assistance. What a world of difference.

Worse yet, China was not only the source of infections for Tai-wan, it even lied to the international community saying that it was offering adequate information and assistance to Taiwan and that the "central government" was doing its best to look after the Taiwanese.

In particular, when Taiwan most needed support from the international community, and when it desperately needed to be incorporated into the world disease-prevention system, China sent one of its vice premiers to the World Health Assembly in Geneva in order to block Taipei's entry into the organization.

It is already the consensus that the fundamental right to health of the 23 million people in Taiwan should not be compromised. Even from a less altruistic standpoint, once the country becomes the only loose thread in the net of world disease prevention, not only do its people suffer, but the safety of the entire world becomes jeopardized as well.

Taiwan can become an observer as an independent public health-care entity without inciting a sovereignty controversy. Therefore, no member of civilized society, no individual and no country with any regard for human life could bear to see that there is still one country cast aside like an orphan from the world disease-prevention system. For this reason, there is overwhelming support for Taipei's observer status.

Yet, Beijing has shown no intent to change its barbaric nature. It continues to give that illusory "one China" principle much more importance than people's lives, bullying the country with its might. Its conduct has triggered Taiwan's rage, inviting uniform condemnation of both the ruling and opposition camps. The minority who clung to their illusions about China have finally come to their senses.

Actually, no matter how unfortunate it may be that Taiwan cannot become an observer of the WHO, the country still must face the reality about the increasingly tough battle against SARS.

On April 22, the number of infections within Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and Jen Chi Hospital reached its initial peak. This month, those that took place in the National Taiwan Hospital and the Mackay Memorial Hospital were the second peak. In the middle of the month, infections within Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, among others, have become the third peak. Serious infections within hospital facilities have been spread from north to south. Even Kinmen and Penghu have not been immune.

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