Thu, May 11, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Taiwanese officials ready to work from WHA sidelines

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee yesterday talks to reporters at the Legislative Yuan about Taiwan’s exclusion from this year’s World Health Assembly.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

Beijing has spurned Taipei’s attempt to communicate about its bid to join the World Health Assembly (WHA) this year, but a delegation is prepared to interact with other nations on the sidelines of the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, even if Taiwan fails to secure an invitation, the Mainland Affairs Council and Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Taiwan did not receive an invitation from the WHO by Monday’s deadline for online registration due to Beijing’s objections. The WHA is being held from May 22 to May 31.

The council tried on March 23 and May 1 to communicate with Beijing via official and non-official channels, including text messages, faxes and telephone calls, but China did not respond, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Lin Cheng-yi (林正義) said at a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee in Taipei.

“It would be against China’s hope of a rapprochement in cross-strait relations if it continues to ignore Taiwan’s rights and suppress Taiwan’s participation in international organizations,” Lin said.

China needs to understand the changes in Taiwan’s political scene and adjust its policy just as Beijing has made policy adjustments after US President Donald Trump assumed office, he said.

Prior to 2009, China opposed Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO, but did not link its exclusion to the “one China” principle or the so-called “1992 consensus,” Lin said.

It is hoped that China could exercise the same policy flexibility toward Taiwan again, he said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) asked if President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would, on the first anniversary of her inauguration, reframe her China policy with the slogan “new situation, new test paper, new model,” a move he said would not improve cross-strait ties.

Without giving a direct answer, Lin said Tsai’s anniversary speech is expected to be in line with the gist of the slogan, while the government is still observing Beijing’s reaction to it.

“We will not go back to confrontation mode and most importantly we will not cave in to pressure and stop moving forward,” Lin said of the government’s cross-strait policy.

In related news, a delegation led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) is to visit Geneva while the WHA is meeting regardless of whether Taiwan has received an invitation, and the delegation would engage in bilateral and multilateral meetings with public health officials of “key countries” and non-governmental groups, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said.

The ministry has organized news conferences, interviews and diplomatic events in addition to a “Taiwan Night” hosted by non-governmental organizations, Lee said.

Seven “important countries” that have contributed 56 percent of the WHO’s funding have voiced support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA, suggesting increased support at an international level, Lee said.

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