Mon, May 13, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Bid for WHO luring hundreds to Geneva

`GO, GO TAIWAN' An unprecedented amount of Taiwanese from home and abroad are in the Swiss city in hopes of increasing momentum for Taiwan's bid

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

Yu Ti-ger, a Taiwanese dental anesthetist working in Japan, shows his name card, which bears a line promoting Taiwan's WHO bid. Yu is in Geneva to lobby for Taiwan at the annual World Health Assembly, which is scheduled to kick off today.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Despite being confined to her wheelchair, 86-year-old Taiwanese Yu We-yu (尤吳幼) decided to join her son Yu Ti-ger (尤泰峨) to travel from their Tokyo home to Geneva to do their part for the latest round of Taiwan's WHO bid.

"I am here to say `go, go, go' for Taiwan's bid. I hope we can make it despite China's stark opposition," Yu said, the eldest member of an unprecedented large-scale contingency of Taiwanese nationals that gathered in a downtown hotel in Geneva yesterday to boost Taiwan's bid.

Prior to departure, the younger Yu, dean of the School of Dentistry at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, asked his secretary to make him name cards printed with slogans such as "Help Taiwan into WHO, Please!!"

Yu and her son are not alone.

Hundreds of Taiwanese from medical associations in Taiwan, Japan, North America, Europe and members of the Federation of Taiwanese Associations in Europe, as well the World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce, have descended on Geneva for the week-long World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting.

Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民), executive director of the Foundation of the Medical Professionals Alliance (台灣醫界聯盟基金會), said he felt "thrilled" to see that the number of civil groups backing Taiwan's bid is on the rise.

"Since our alliance's first experience here during Taiwan's bid in 1997, we knew it would not be an easy task. But now I am very thrilled to see that we no longer have only one group supporting the move," said Wu, who is also national policy adviser to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Wu Yung-tung (吳運東), president of the Taiwan Medical Association (中華民國醫師公會全國聯合會) as well as Taiwan's ambassador-at-large, said while only a single-digit number of physicians from his association came to Geneva to show support for last year's bid, that number has increased six-fold this year.

Besides the gathering in the morning, hundreds of the participants also conducted an outdoor campaign yesterday afternoon in front of the Place des Nations with colorful banners and placards with campaign slogans such as "Taiwan for WHO" written in various languages. The crowd chanted and sang Taiwanese folksongs including Move Forward (往前走) and If I Open My Eyes and Minds (阮若打開心內門窗).

Participants in the morning's events also shared their experiences in helping boost Taiwan's chances by utilizing their various connections and networks in the international medical community.

For instance, a Europe-based renowned expert in acupuncture has helped connect the local Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce with the health minister in his home country, which has been highly conducive to lobbying efforts a source said.

Additionally, more than 200 Taiwanese graduates from the Harvard School of Public Health helped collect 155 signatures from Harvard professors for a petition supporting Taiwan's bid presented to WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland, said Chang Fu-mei (張富美), minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission.

Brundtland, a doctor from Norway, is also a Harvard School of Public Health graduate.

"We are indeed gathering momentum," Chang said, adding that the establishment of the Taiwan Medical Association in Japan in March is another example of overseas Taiwanese getting involved in the bid efforts.

Wu Shuh-min, who has only missed one WHA meeting since Taiwan's bid efforts began in 1997, said he has seen incremental progress in Taiwan's efforts, particularly in the interactions between the government and civil groups.

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