Fri, May 24, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Witness says there was no WHA brawl

DENIAL A report in the `Washington Post' that said the representatives from the US and China to the World Health Assembly got into a shoving match during the meeting is false, said a source yesterday who was on the scene


A report that a physical altercation between US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and a Chinese diplomat occurred on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting is untrue, said a witness who was on the scene.

But the source confirmed that Thompson and the head of the Chinese delegation to the assembly, Sha Zakung (沙祖康), did have a terse verbal exchange during the meeting held earlier this month.

The report, published in the Washington Post's "In the loop" column on May 17, said that the two got into a heated argument in the hallways of the WHA -- by one account, a "shouting and shoving match" -- when "Sha approached Thompson with news Thompson didn't appreciate about voting for an El Salvadoran representative to be president of the assembly."

"I don't need this [expletive]," Thompson said, according to the Post. The report said that Sha responded in kind and that Sha then either tapped Thompson on the shoulder or pushed him.

The report also said that Thompson and Sha had already been experiencing friction over Taiwan's observer bid to the WHA, the WHO's highest decision-making body.

A witness to the incident who did not wish to be identified, said yesterday that while the verbal encounter did indeed happen, no pushing or shoving occurred.

Yesterday, however, a US official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, would not confirm any version of the events and only said that further investigation into the matter would be needed to determine what had happened.

In related news, Taiwan's Minister of Health Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) on Wednesday called for the WHO to accept Taiwan as a member during a speech at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

In his speech, entitled "What Taiwan can do for the Third World Countries," Lee said Taiwan continues to pay the world back for the help it received during its poorer, leaner years, when Taiwan received assistance from international organizations to eradicate malaria, control its birth rate, prevent tuberculosis and promote general health.

He added that Taiwan's experiences can therefore be used to help make other areas in the world healthier.

He said crucial disease prevention and control depend upon effective health surveillance networks on a global scale in which no single entity is left out. It is therefore in the interest of the health of all nations that Taiwan be involved in the world's health system, he said.

Lee added that since 1995 Taiwan has given -- via official and non-governmental contributions -- over US$100 million to about 80 countries in Central and South America, Africa, West Asia, the Asia Pacific region and North America, as well as to organizations like Rotary International, Kiwanis International, Medecins du Monde and Knightbridge International.

He said that in addition to the AIDS-prevention programs Taiwan has helped set up and run in Burkina Faso and Swaziland, Taiwan has also pledged US$1 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, in spite of Taiwan's isolation from the international community.

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