Wed, May 21, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan WHA application thwarted for the 12th time

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AGENCIES

Despite the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), China has shown no sign of easing its grip on Taiwan’s international space, as the nation’s 12th consecutive attempt to gain a seat in the World Health Assembly (WHA) failed on Monday.

The WHO’s highest decision-making body ruled to delete Taiwan’s application from the assembly agenda.

All of Taiwan’s previous attempts since 1997 were foiled by Beijing, which claims to have sole health jurisdiction over Taiwan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it was “regrettable” that the WHO refused to discuss Taiwan’s observer status application, but expressed gratitude to Taiwan’s friends, including the US, for their support of the bid.

During Monday’s afternoon plenary session, China teamed up with Pakistan to block Taiwan’s entry, while Taiwanese allies Gambia and Palau vouched for Taiwan’s medical contributions to the world and urged the WHA to stop neglecting the Taiwan’s 23 million people.

Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu (陳竺) told assembly members that “the Chinese government has always been concerned about the health of the Taiwanese compatriots and is willing to do its utmost to protect the health rights of the people in Taiwan.”

Chen alluded to the massive multimillion dollar donation that the Taiwanese government and the public made to the Sichuan earthquake relief fund.

“The kinship between mainland Chinese and the residents of Taiwan has not changed and will not change,” Chen said.

Chen added that since May last year, Beijing has launched a series of initiatives to arrange direct communications between the WHO and Taiwan as part of the International Health Regulations 2005 — an assertion that former Taiwanese minister of health Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) rebutted.

“No such thing has taken place,” Hou said.

As in past years, Hou met US Secretary of Human and Health Services Michael Leavitt in a closed-door meeting.

In the 45-minute meeting, Hou reportedly gave Leavitt a brief introduction of his successor — Lin Fang-yu (林芳郁), a former president of the National Taiwan University Hospital

Leavitt refrained from answering questions on the prospects of Taiwan-US health collaboration under the new administration.

The US remained mum during the discussion, but released a statement later saying a way must be found to increase Taiwan’s participation in the global health system.

Since 2004, Washington has thrown its weight behind Taiwan’s WHA observer bid, but refused to waiver from its stance opposing Taiwan’s membership in any international organization that requires sovereignty in line with its “one China” policy.

“Without opportunities for participation in the WHO, Taiwan’s 23 million inhabitants have only restricted access to health alerts and public health programs to which they have much to contribute, and from which they could and should benefit,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday it was regrettable that Taiwan’s “flexible and pragmatic” bid to be a WHA observer under the name “Taiwan” was again rejected by the assembly.

The freshly inaugurated Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration has previously said that Taiwan would adopt a more flexible approach on the name issue, including the option of using “Chinese Taipei” in all future bids for membership in international organizations.

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