Last month a delegation headed by Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) took part in the 67th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the supreme decisionmaking body of the WHO, in Geneva, Switzerland. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was delighted that Taiwan was again able to attend the WHA meeting under the name “Chinese Taipei,” but said nothing about the WHO continuing to list Taiwan as a province of China in all its internal communications.
Judging by Ma’s failure to speak out when the nation’s sovereignty is challenged in this way, it looks as if he reached an unspoken agreement with China long ago.
In 2011, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) released a confidential WHO internal memorandum that defined Taiwan as a province of China and proved that the WHO and Beijing had signed a memorandum of understanding concerning such matters in 2005.
The secret memo, entitled “Application of the International Health Regulations (2005) to the Taiwan Province of China,” was distributed by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) to all regional offices of the UN agency in September 2010, and it defines Taiwan as “the Taiwan Province of China.”
The political reality highlighted by the secret memo is that after its “withdrawal” from the UN in 1971 the “Republic of China” (ROC) ceased to exist as a member of the international community. To put it simply, the ROC became history from that time on.
Now that the ROC is history, no matter whether Taiwan goes by the name of “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei,” it is barking up the wrong tree and going nowhere.
The Ma administration keeps talking about what a great achievement it is to be called “Chinese Taipei” — or Zhonghua Taibei (中華台北) in Chinese — but the word “Chinese” in English does not convey the broad cultural implications of the Chinese word zhonghua.
Rather, it gives the impression that Taiwan is a Chinese colony that belongs to China, just as the British Virgin Islands, American Samoa, French Polynesia and French Guiana are territories of the UK, US and France respectively.
A more accurate Chinese-language version of “Chinese Taipei” would be Zhongshu Taibei (中屬台北), meaning Taiwan is a colony of the People’s Republic of China.
It is quite clear that Ma and China are singing the same tune on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
The Ma administration has repeatedly walked into the trap set up by China in the WHO.
The so-called “WHA model” clearly reflects the way in which China’s “one China” principle is becoming increasingly internalized by international organizations. The damage done to Taiwan’s sovereignty will be very hard to repair.
If this goes on for much longer, Taiwan will be knocked out and never stand up again.
The only way for Taiwan to take part in the international community with its dignity intact is to use its proper name. Any other way is sure to end in failure.
Huang Chi-hao is office chief of the Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Julian Clegg