Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 1 News List

WHA attendance possible: WHO

KMT ABSENCE:The DPP called for cross-caucus talks, hoping for a legislature-wide consensus condemning China’s action, but the main opposition party stayed away

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators chat on the legislative floor in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

The WHO yesterday left open the possibility that Taiwan could still attend its World Health Assembly (WHA), saying talks are continuing, despite China’s insistence that a delegation from Taiwan be excluded for the first time since 2009.

The WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, on Monday closed its online registration for the May 22 to 31 event.

Taiwan’s exclusion is widely seen as the latest move by China to clamp down on the nation’s international participation.

Tim Armstrong, who heads the WHO’s department of governing bodies, said that for now, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), who is from Hong Kong, “is not in a position to issue an invitation for Taiwanese observers to attend to the World Health Assembly.”

However, Armstrong said that “negotiations are still ongoing,” adding: “Anything is possible.”

Meanwhile, in Taipei, the Legislative Yuan failed to reach a cross-caucus resolution on issuing a protest against China’s action to block the nation’s participation at the WHA, with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus refusing to attend the negotiation.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called for talks in the hope of achieving a legislature-wide consensus and resolution condemning China’s obstruction.

Health is a basic human right and as diseases know no national borders, there should not be a gap in disease prevention, the DPP caucus said, adding that Taiwan’s participation in the WHA is indispensable for the world’s health and its disease prevention system.

“The purpose of the cross-caucus talks was for the nation’s highest representative institution to present a united front and statement in the face of the difficulty and [China’s] unreasonable suppression,” Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), who presided over the negotiation, said 15 minutes after its scheduled start time.

“However, as the KMT caucus refuses to attend, we do not have a cross-caucus consensus or a conclusion today,” Tsai said before announcing the meeting was closed.

In addition to the DPP caucus, New Power Party Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) and People First Party caucus whip Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) also attended the meeting.

On Wednesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan (安峰山) said that Taiwan’s epidemic prevention information exchange channels with the WHO are good, that Taiwan can attend technical WHO meetings and WHO experts can visit Taiwan if needed.

The health of Taiwanese and Taiwan’s exclusion from the meeting are two different matters, An told a regular news briefing.

Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) accused the Chinese official of dishonesty, saying Beijing is seeking to downgrade the nation’s sovereign status.

Due to China’s obstruction, Taiwan has not received invitations to more than 50 percent of the technical WHO meetings it has applied to attend, Chiu said.

Even WHO experts who are invited to attend meetings in Taiwan have to obtain approval from China before coming, Chiu said, adding that in this climate, Taiwan generally does not have access to real-time epidemic information.

All of this proves that China does not care about the health and well-being of Taiwanese, he said.

Chiu said the council has twice sent a statement to China indicating Taiwan’s willingness to settle differences through dialogue, but received no response.

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