Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China needs a history lesson

On Monday, Taiwan's eighth bid to join the World Health Assembly (WHA) was ended by a vote of 133 to 25. But both the US and Japan, after many years of silence, finally spoke out for Taiwan, urging the WHA to exclude political considerations and accept Taiwan as an observer without voting rights on the principle that medical issues transcend national boundaries.

The SARS epidemic hurt Taiwan deeply last year. Although the nation paid considerable social costs in the process of dealing with the disease, its outstanding performance attracted worldwide attention. Taiwan's medical care standards and public health defenses are much better than those of China, which ranks 144th among the 191 WHA member states.

Beijing has been the source of two SARS outbreaks that sent the entire world into a panic. Yet it shamelessly claims that it has provided medical assistance or earthquake emergency aid to Taiwan as a Chinese province.

Is this for real? If the Chinese regime really cherishes the life and property of the Taiwanese people, why would it deploy 500 missiles along its coastline aimed? How is it possible that a country so poor by sanitary and medical standards can offer assistance to a country with relatively better conditions?

History reveals China's claims to be lies. Prior to any Chinese settlement in Taiwan, Portuguese commercial boats arrived in nearby waters. Ever since then, the island, which was originally inhabited by Aboriginal people, has been tangled in world politics. The Dutch landed and started developing Tainan in 1624. The Spanish later occupied the north with an official ceremony on today's Hoping Island in Keelung.

China's political influence did not reach Taiwan until 1661, when Koxinga (鄭成功), a loyalist to the fallen Ming dynasty, defeated the Dutch after his retreat to Taiwan. Then, in 1683, the Qing took over Taiwan. Ceded to Japan in 1895, the island was Japanese territory for half a century. Taiwan was taken over by the refugee regime led by late president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) in 1945, following Japan's defeat in World War II.

As these historical facts demonstrate, Taiwan has never been an inherent part of China's territory. Instead, it is an island that other powers have fought over since the 17th century. When the People's Republic of China was founded on Oct. 1, 1949, the Republic of China set up its central government in Taiwan separate from China's. One capital was in Beijing, the other in Taipei. The long standoff has produced "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait. It's absurd to claim Taiwan to be part of China's integral territory or as a breakaway province.

Beijing keeps pressing the international community to accept its twisted logic and historical claims, most recently in forcing Taiwan to be excluded once again from the WHA's list of observers. Such Chinese suppression will only further irritate the Taiwanese and will block this nation from contributing its medical aid and lending its experience to needy countries.

Although Taiwan's national dignity was damaged again, those who will suffer the most from this exclusion may be poor countries in need of medical aid, along with the principle of fair distribution of medical resources, which the WHA is supposed to uphold.

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