Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

WHO shoots down assembly entry bid

FAILED ATTEMPTTaiwan may have been rejected for the seventh time, but this go around, it got a lot more support from the US and EU member countries

By Melody Chen, Wang Ping-yu and Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN GENEVA AND TAIPEI

Taiwanese lobbying groups hold banners written in various languages outside the European headquarters of the UN yesterday. Lin Shih-chia, executive director of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance, left, was later held in police custody for a brief interview and then released.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Although Taiwan was rejected yesterday for the seventh time in its bid to become an observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA), Taiwanese officials saw remarkable progress in other countries' support for Taiwan's bid.

During the second plenary meeting, Taiwan's application to join the WHA as an observer was again rejected, but Taiwan still stands a chance tomorrow to apply during the third plenary meeting, the committee "A" meeting and the round table meeting.

The general committee of the WHA, the World Health Organization's (WHO) highest decision body, decided not to include Taiwan's application to be a WHA observer as a supplementary item to the assembly agenda.

However, the US displayed considerable support for Taiwan's observership bid by addressing a letter to chairman of the general demanding to accommodate Taiwan into its health network.

Although the US stressed its above request did not mean it supported the inclusion of Taiwan's observer status bid in the assembly agenda, Taiwanese officials regarded the high level of support the US has exhibited as unprecedented.

For the first time, the US spoke for Taiwan's observership application, whereas Japan, which has publicly expressed support for Taiwan's bid to join the WHA as an observer, did not make any supportive move during the general committee.

Moreover, none of the EU members opposed adding Taiwan's observer status application to the assembly agenda.

EU countries had opposed Taiwan's entering the WHA as an observer for the past several years. Last year, France and Spain opposed putting Taiwan's observership into the assembly agenda.

Officials hailed the lack of opposition from the EU as another considerable milestone in Taiwan's efforts to enter the WHO.

"It was a good sign never seen before," said an official.

During the general committee, seven countries supported Taiwan's bid while 27 others opposed. Taiwan's allies -- the seven supporters -- Nicaragua, Honduras, Palau, Belize, Senegal, Dominica and Gambia spoke for Taiwan, whereas Cuba, Libya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Algeria -- which were among the 27 -- stood against Taiwan.

Officials said China launched an unprecedented effort to mobilize its allies to block Taiwan's observership bid.

However, officials expressed optimism because not many countries, apart from these allies, voiced their opposition against Taiwan's bid.

Wu Yi (吳儀), China's vice president and minister of health, personally attended the general committee and spearheaded the opposition to Taiwan's observership application.

Michael Kao (高英茂), vice minister of foreign affairs, said what matters most was the extent of support other countries gave for Taiwan's application for WHO observership rather than the result of the application.

Kao said the US expressed support for the proposal and that Japan also held a "friendly" attitude toward the proposal.

Marshall Islands put forth the proposal to add Taiwan's application for WHA observer status as a supplementary item to the assembly's provisional agenda.

Christine McNab, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization (WHO), said on the committee itself, a minority of the members and a handful of non-members spoke for Taiwan's proposal.

Bangladeshi chaired the general committee, which was attended by 23 countries. Kao said only 1 or 2 of the countries attending the general committee were Taiwan's allies.

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