Thu, May 18, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen seeks global support for WHA bid

APPEAL In an interview that aired yesterday, the president said Taiwan should not be `segregated' from the global health community due to China's objections

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday called on the international community to support Taiwan's 10th bid to join the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer, because Taiwan's accession as a health entity is unrelated to Beijing's "one China policy."

"If we consider that even the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta can become observers at the WHA, then why are the 23 million people of Taiwan denied the right to participate?" Chen said.

Chen made the remarks during a May 1 interview with EuroNews, a television news channel broadcasting to most of Europe. The program aired on TV and was posted online yesterday.

The WHA -- the World Health Organization's highest decision-making body -- will convene its annual assembly in Geneva next Monday. Formal statehood is not a requirement for WHA observer status, but Taiwan has been denied that status at the yearly meetings because of China's objections.

Chen said that it was clear that issues such as healthcare and disease prevention transcend national boundaries, and that the Taiwanese people should not have their basic rights in any way limited, or be "segregated or isolated" from the rest of the world.

"Taiwan should not be the only gap in the global disease prevention network, or remain the only one absent from important international health organizations," he said. "We are not even asking for formal membership in the World Health Organization (WHO). We just humbly wish to become an observer at the WHA as a health entity."

However, a top WHO official said yesterday that Taiwan will again try and fail to win observer status at next week's annual WHO meeting.

But Denis Aitken, adviser to WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook, added that Taiwan's exclusion did not make it a weak link in the global fight against infectious diseases such as bird flu, as Taipei has often alleged.

"The general situation has remained the same as last year. Observer status is on the agenda, but we have no expectations of any change," Lee said. "On the political level frankly we don't expect any change. On the practical level, we entered into an agreement with China last year and we think that the first year has been successful."

The agreement with China allows WHO to immediately send experts to Taiwan in emergency situations.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said the nation would not compromise in its WHA bid, no matter how China tries to obstruct the move. Su said that Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) has traveled to Geneva with supporters of Taiwan's bid in order to step up the nation's publicity campaign.

China musto respect the free choice of the 23 million people of Taiwan, the president said.

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