Mon, Apr 30, 2007 - Page 1 News List

President blasts WHO for rejecting bid

DIPLOMATIC ISSUE Chen Shui-bian said that the international health agency had ignored the sovereignty of the country and denied the human rights of its people

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian speaks at a seminar on Taiwan's WHO bid in Taipei yesterday. He critized the WHO for rejecting Taiwan's application for membership.

PHOTO: PATRICK LIN, AFP

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday lashed out at the WHO Secretariat after it rejected Taiwan's bid to join the organization using the name "Taiwan."

Chen's remarks were the first formal response to the secretariat's rejection of Taiwan's membership bid on April 25. The president had sent a letter on April 11 to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) asking that the country be allowed to join the health body.

The Central News Agency quoted WHO spokeswoman Christine McNab responding to Taiwan's request by saying: "The WHO's legal consultants, after studying UN resolutions and the WHO Charter, believe that Taiwan is not a sovereign state and is not eligible to apply for WHO membership. We have notified Taipei of this stance."

Addressing a forum in Taipei on the issue, Chen reiterated that Taiwan is a sovereign state with the right to apply for WHO membership.

"It is the collective human right of the 23 million people of Taiwan, and [this right] should not be deprived by the WHO secretariat or its director-general," he said, also slamming China for what he described as its continuous suppression of Taiwan in the international community.

Citing the former East Germany as an example, Chen said whether Taiwan should be admitted into the WHO as a full member is an issue that should be determined by all WHO members.

"Taiwan has diplomatic ties with 23 WHO member countries, and one observer. Why did the WHO secretariat deny Taiwan's sovereignty and question the decision made by those 23 member countries?" Chen said.

East Germany was admitted to the WHO as a full member in 1968, after the then WHO chief asked for the issue to be included on the agenda of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the organization's highest decision-making body.

While urging the WHO to submit Taiwan's application to the WHA next month, Chen called on Taiwan's political parties and its people to unite and fight against "China's suppression" after being asked to comment on the Democratic Progressive Party's presidential primary.

"China's suppression of the collective human rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan is the important issue. In comparison, the DPP's presidential primary is nothing," he said.

Echoing Chen's remarks that the country has every right to apply to join the WHO as a full member, pro-independence panelists in a forum yesterday said that Taiwan should continue seeking the full WHO membership using the name "Taiwan."

"Applying for WHO membership under the name of Taiwan is an intelligent new policy and the correct way to go," said Chen Lung-chu (陳隆志), chairman of the New Century Foundation and director of the Taiwan United Nations Alliance.

After 10 years of failed attempts to become an observer at the WHA as a "health entity," Chen Lung-chu said Taiwan should pursue a new strategy, even though the bid failed again this year. He said the benefits of applying to be a full member are far greater than those attained on becoming a WHA observer.

"Applying for full membership under the name `Taiwan' highlights the country's sovereignty. It's time to adopt this strategy in consideration of Taiwan's fundamental and long-term interests," he said.

Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民), president of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan, agreed that the time is ripe to follow the new strategy of using the name "Taiwan" on the application.

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