Wed, Mar 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Beijing obstructing public health

By Lin Shih-chia 林世嘉

On Feb. 21, the WHO Consultation and Information Meeting on the Composition of Influenza Virus Vaccines for Use in the 2019-2020 Northern Hemisphere Influenza Season was held in Beijing. Ministry of Health and Welfare delegates arrived late to the concluding meeting, having only received the WHO’s invitation letter early on the morning of the conference.

The delegates, there to obtain important information to protect public health, were excluded from the meeting on a technicality. It was the first time since 2014 that Taiwanese delegates have been excluded from the conference.

The latest exclusion of Taiwanese officials from participating in a WHO conference was a continuation of China’s original demand, first made in 2017, that the global health body abide by the so-called “1992 consensus,” which was then used to justify the exclusion of Taiwanese delegates from that year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) and once again suppress and bully Taiwan.

In a visit to China in 2016, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) claimed that Taiwan was able to attend the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016 was because of cross-strait peace, international support and the governments on each side of the Taiwan Strait accepting the “1992 consensus.”

However, if this is true, why is it that during the eight years that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in government, adherence to the “1992 consensus” only allowed Taiwan to attend the WHA conference as an observer. Taiwan was still excluded from all other WHO-organized conferences and events.

Due to the refusal of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration to accept the “1992 consensus,” despite a significant number of pro-Taiwan voices worldwide and although Tsai did nothing to provoke a quarrel with Beijing or to destabilize regional peace and stability, Taiwanese delegates have been refused entry into the annual WHA. Now, the nation’s delegates are even banned from attending WHO vaccine conferences.

In Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) New Year’s address to Taiwan — intended to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1979 “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” — Xi further narrowed the definition of the “1992 consensus.”

In his speech, Xi explicitly renounced the “different interpretations” part of the “1992 consensus” that the KMT has complacently clung to for so many years. Now all that is left of the “1992 consensus” is “one China.”

From Beijing’s perspective, only when the Tsai administration accepts the “1992 consensus” and Taiwan is a part of China will Taiwan be given the space to participate in international organizations and events, such as WHO-organized conferences. Only then will a subservient and downtrodden Taiwanese population be able to receive the latest data on epidemics in order to formulate the right vaccines to protect their health.

The WHO was established with the aim of promoting health as a basic human right, and successive secretaries-general have promoted “comprehensive medical cover” and “not a single person should be left behind” as core principles of the organization’s mission.

Over the past few years, a growing number of countries have voiced support for Taiwan’s return to the WHO and have consistently used health as a basic human right as the foundation for their argument. No country — apart from China — has ever used the “1992 consensus” as a prerequisite for the Taiwanese public’s access to public health information.

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