Thu, May 19, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Health minister expresses optimism in speech at WHA

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters

Amid the controversy surrounding a WHO internal memo issued last year that instructed its various agencies to use “Taiwan, province of China” whenever referring to Taiwan, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) yesterday expressed optimism that the arrangements by which Taiwan attends the World Health Assembly (WHA) could also be used at other WHO-related events.

“I wish to thank the director-general for inviting Chinese Taipei to the WHA for the third time. I am sure, with our concerted efforts, this practice and related arrangements, which may be called the ‘WHA model,’ will be reflected to other WHO meetings, mechanisms, information sources and documents, so that relevant procedures and terminology will be consistent with the practice in the WHA,” Chiu said as he concluded a five-minute speech delivered in English to the assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The tone of Chiu’s speech came across as a sharp contrast to a strongly worded protest letter he presented to the WHO Secretariat on Monday, in which he expressed “utmost dissatisfaction” and said it was “absolutely unacceptable to us” that the WHO’s internal memo asked its recipients to refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan, province of China.”

Chiu, leading the Taiwanese delegation at the WHA at the invitation of WHO Secretariat Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), reaffirmed in his speech “Chinese Taipei’s commitment to take part in the WHO endeavors to promote international health cooperation.”

In Taipei, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers reacted with surprise to Chiu’s “WHA model” remarks, saying the leaked WHO memo had already made it clear that Taiwan’s invitation to the WHA came with the label “province of China.”

“It is wrong to assume that we can continue using this type of method to gain membership. The WHA method, especially given this year’s events, involves calling Taiwan ‘Taipei, China’ and not ‘Chinese Taipei’ as before,” DPP Legislator and former Department of Health minister Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) said.

Twu questioned whether Chiu’s remarks came at the behest of those in the higher echelons of government, including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

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