Online registration for this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) has ended and Taiwan did not receive an invitation to the global summit. The health rights of Taiwanese are being held hostage by China’s aggression.
The WHO constitution vows to ensure that people around the world have access to the highest standards of healthcare. Taiwan has long made considerable contributions in terms of material assistance, vaccination programs and expertise in disease prevention and health security around the world, and its health system is widely acknowledged as excellent.
Taiwan has also played a major role through its efforts in Africa and throughout the world in providing medical treatment without borders.
It is an exemplar of global health and provider of medical treatment.
The only party not willing to recognize this is China.
Taiwanese will never forget how during the SARS epidemic in 2003 Chinese representative to the WHA Wu Yi (吳儀) insisted that Taiwan had no need to enter the WHO, or how China’s permanent representative to the UN, Sha Zukang (沙祖康), said to Taiwanese reporters: “Who cares about what you have to say?”
When China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) said “no one China principle, no WHA,” Taiwanese were left under no illusion about how unreasonable Beijing was going to be.
Taiwan and Hong Kong had been left unprepared during the initial SARS outbreak — as had the rest of the world — because China tried to keep its cases under wraps. As more cases were reported, fear spread among the public, and the government and healthcare professionals were left to fight it head-on. Many people, including nurses, perished as a result.
Beijing has repeatedly tried to capitalize on the situation by blocking direct communication of vital information from the WHO to Taiwan, insisting that all information and assistance go through China. At the same time, China has told the international community that there are excellent cross-strait medical exchanges and that it will provide Taiwan with any assistance it needs.
This led the US secretary of health and human services to criticize China for blocking Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, saying that medical treatment should have no borders.
China’s insistence on political interference in matters of healthcare and preventing Taiwan from participation in governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as political and humanitarian organizations, has essentially isolated Taiwan, and the international community has started to lose patience with Beijing’s unreasonable stance.
Nobody would say that cross-strait relations have gone smoothly since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office last year, but room for goodwill remains on both sides.
The WHA is an important indicator of goodwill, and Tsai has been giving interviews to the international media and taking to Twitter to explain the importance of Taiwan’s participation in the WHA in the hopes of getting an invitation.
She understands cross-strait relations and belongs to the practical arm of the Democratic Progressive Party. China wants Tsai to complete her “test paper” on cross-strait relations, but if it also wants to act in a manner befitting a major nation, it will need to complete its own test paper on the WHA.
Beijing needs to understand Taiwanese resolve when it comes to access to healthcare and not underestimate the gravity of the situation. If it fails this test, it will drive Tsai and Taiwanese to extremes.
Neither the government nor ordinary Taiwanese will give up on this issue, and Beijing really does not want to have this driving a wedge between the two sides, pushing Taiwan away.
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