Thu, Sep 08, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Leaked cables cast doubt on president’s WHA claims

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Leaked US cables cast doubt on statements made by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that Taiwan’s presence at the World Health Assembly (WHA) was a result of direct communication with the WHO and that Taiwan’s designation as “Chinese Taipei” was acceptable and did not infringe on Taiwanese sovereignty.

Instead, the cables released by WikiLeaks suggest Beijing’s heavy involvement in the matter, with its insistence that Taiwan’s international participation be based on the “one China” principle.

For three consecutive years since 2009, Taiwan has taken part in the annual WHA meeting as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei.” While Ma’s government has hailed the participation in the WHA as a major diplomatic achievement, it has been clouded by accusations that it has eroded Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Recent evidence came in May following the leak of an internal memo from the WHO, in which it said Taiwan is a “province of China” pursuant to an agreement the WHO signed with Beijing. The Ma administration sent a letter of protest in May, but to date the WHO has yet to respond.

US cables released by WikiLeaks recently provide more insight into what it took for Taiwan to be able to take part in WHA meetings.

In a confidential cable dated Dec. 24, 2008, the US embassy in Beijing quoted Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Wang Yi (王毅) as saying that “Taiwan’s international space, particularly [its] participation in the WHA, should be worked out on the basis of the ‘one China’ principle and through direct consultations between the Mainland and Taiwan.”

Wang was quoted in the cable as saying that Taiwan’s attendance at the WHA must rely on “cross-strait consultation” to find the “most suitable arrangement.”

Earlier the same year, Wang told visiting US academics on Oct. 31 that WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) could invite Taiwan to “participate” in the WHA meeting, but this would not give Taiwan “legal observer” status, according to a cable dated Dec. 5, 2008.

“Any progress that could be made on the WHO/WHA issue by next May in the absence of direct negotiations between China and Taiwan would be something short of formal observership,” the same cable quoted Chinese officials as saying.

In another cable dated March 24, 2009, the US embassy in Beijing said that its contacts were unanimous in predicting that there would be “a new arrangement” allowing Taiwan to participate in the WHA in May after Wang said in a CCTV interview on March 11 that he was “cautiously optimistic” about Taiwan’s participation in the UN agency because both sides now agreed to “oppose Taiwan independence” and uphold the “[19]92 consensus.”

Despite the fact that the WHA issue had not been put on the table in cross-strait negotiations shortly after Ma took office in May 2008, several cables issued by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) showed that many Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) figures brought up the subject with Chinese officials.

According to a cable dated Dec. 24, 2008, then-KMT vice chairman and Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) told the AIT that former vice president and KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) had raised the WHO issue in his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) at the APEC meeting in November in Peru.

Lien was then Ma’s envoy to the APEC summit.

Hu responded by suggesting “Taiwan send someone to talk to PRC [People’s Republic of China] officials” and pointed to the KMT-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forum, the cable said, also quoting Chiang as offering AIT officers a readout of a recording of the Dec. 20-21 KMT-CCP forum in Shanghai.

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