Early last monday, the opening day of the 59th World Health Assembly (WHA), representatives from the Taiwan United Nations Alliance (TAIUNA), the Sin Lau Hospital under the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and four priests arrived at the office building of the WHO where we waited in line to collect our visitor permits for the WHA meeting.
We were the first to arrive. Wang Ai-lan (
Oddly, unlike the situation in 2004, China did not mobilize overseas students to collect permits. I knew instinctively that a lively debate was unlikely, and that the meeting was certain to refuse Taiwan's request to participate as an observer at the WHA.
As expected, China was last to speak at the meeting, so Taiwan and other countries were unable to refute it. This time, Beijing clearly opposed Taiwan's entry to the WHA and its peripheral organizations, such as, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. China's Minister of Health Gao Qiang (高強) also repeated the rules laid down some 35 years ago, saying that since Taiwan is not an independent sovereign state, it is not qualified to join the WHA or to be invited to act as an observer.
He then spent a lengthy period of time explaining that there was no need for Taiwan to join the WHA since its exclusion would not affect disease prevention in the nation or internationally.
He said that China has done much to help Taiwan's disease prevention work by, for example, providing disease information, inviting Taiwanese experts to study in China and allowing them to attend certain WHO conferences.
He even said that thanks to Chinese efforts, Taiwan's prevention capacity has been greatly improved, to the point where it has been able to keep avian flu at bay.
Kao also made a big deal of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-Chinese Communist Party economic forum held last month, saying it proved that Sino-Taiwan relations are sound, and that the people of China are concerned about health issues in Taiwan.
In response to this claim, we really should ask KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), former chairman Lien Chan (連戰), and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to clarify their personal positions on the following issues.
One, China says that Taiwan is not an independent and sovereign state. Do you agree?
Two, several Chinese provinces have been affected by bird flu, but China still claims that the reason the disease has not hit Taiwan is that Beijing invited Taiwanese experts to visit China and attend the WHO's conferences. Do you believe this? Do you agree?
Three, are you willing to put the public health of Taiwan, which enjoys first-class health facilities and medical care, in the hands of China with its second-rate health facilities and medical care?
Four, China continually blocks Taiwan's efforts to enter the WHA and peripheral organizations. Do you agree with this? Do you dare oppose these actions?
Five, China says that the participation of Lien and Taiwanese tycoons in the joint forum proves that the nation does not need to enter the WHO or become a WHA observer. Do you agree?