No cross-strait ‘spiritual union’

By Lin Shih-Chia 林世嘉  / 

Fri, Jan 18, 2019 - Page 8

On Dec. 24, the government announced that due to China’s suppression of Taiwan’s national dignity when it came to the US$1 million donation to the WHO to assist the fight against the Ebola virus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suspended the donation after failing to reach an agreement with the WHO, despite more than seven months of negotiations.

Taiwan has made several similar donations to major partners in the field of global health, and they made a positive impact.

For instance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was established in 2002. Taiwan in 2002 and 2004 donated US$1 million to it in the name of “the people of Taiwan” and the “Health Authorities of Taiwan,” respectively, with the purpose of assisting the WHO and international society to tackle the three major infectious diseases.

However, in a retrospective manner, China has vehemently suppressed and been extremely hostile toward Taiwan’s aid donations and even its acceptance of other country’s donations.

For example: After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Chinese journalist Kong Chien (孔建), on a TV Asahi program, claimed that donations from Taiwan should be counted as donations from China; in the aftermath of the Hualien earthquake last year, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs even condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for expressing his condolences to Taiwan; and the day after the 921 earthquake in 1999, which was an even greater disaster than last year’s, the Red Cross Society of China demanded that any country wanting to provide relief funds or aid to Taiwan should acquire China’s consent.

All in all, except for those incidents, China has merely turned a deaf ear to injuries and casualties among Taiwanese.

A few days ago, when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) responded to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) “spiritual union” statement, she said that the urgent African swine fever epidemic, the conduct of pressuring international corporations to change their designation of Taiwan and buying up Taiwan’s diplomatic allies would not bring about a spiritual union across the Taiwan Strait.

China’s forcible suppression in recent years of any chance for Taiwan to make meaningful contributions to global health will not only drive Taiwanese further away, but it is unlikely to bring any benefits to the well-being of Taiwanese and Chinese, and it could even pose a huge threat to global health security.

On the other hand, Taiwan has diligently fulfilled its obligations as a global citizen and dedicated itself to strengthening epidemic prevention networks with like-minded countries at both the regional and international levels.

As China cannot even be bothered to act as a “like-minded” partner of Taiwan, on what grounds can Xi support the blatant claim that there is what he calls a “spiritual union” across the Taiwan Strait?

On Thursday next week, the WHO is to hold its 144th executive board meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting is to focus on the eradication of polio and tuberculosis, as well as the fight against antibiotic resistance.

If the WHO truly intends to become a so-called “global health leader,” then instead of ignoring Taiwan’s willingness and right to participate in and contribute to global health, it should promote more transnational cooperation and resource investments to achieve the goal of universal health coverage, which has been pursued by the WHO, so that everyone can have access to essential health services.

As African swine fever-infected pig carcasses from China have reached the shores of Kinmen County, it suffices to say that an outbreak of the epidemic is likely to happen in Taiwan soon.

Therefore, we strongly appeal to the director-general of the WHO and health professionals all over the world to not give countenance to China for extending its unreasonable political oppression to the field of the rights to health, which will only continue to bring irrecoverable losses for global health.

Lin Shih-chia is executive director of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan and a former legislator.