Mon, May 22, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Taipei hopes allies defy China ‘threats’

WHA EXCLUSION:In a meeting with Minister of Health Chen Shih-chung three leaders of the World Medical Association voiced their support for Taiwan’s inclusion

Reuters, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

A group advocating Taiwan’s joining the WHO yesterday demonstrates outside the Chinese Permanent Mission to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.

Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times

Taiwan hopes its allies stand up to China’s “coercion and threats” that have shut it out of the UN’s annual World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) told reporters on Saturday.

Thousands of delegates from the WHO’s 194 members are to attend the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, that opens today, but Chen’s delegation and Taiwanese media are barred.

Chen and his delegation on Saturday arrived in Geneva hoping to meet with officials from nations participating in the WHA meeting while protesting Taiwan’s exclusion from this year’s event.

Taiwan had hoped to attend this year’s session of the WHA — the decisionmaking body of the WHO, which runs through Wednesday next week — as an observer, as it had done the past eight years, but it did not get an invitation from the WHO because of China’s opposition.

“I have to call on China to realize the traditional wisdom of Chinese culture, which is that people are won over by goodwill instead of coercion and threats. That is how a big country should present itself to the world,” Chen said.

Hong-Kong born WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), whose replacement is to be elected tomorrow, has the right to invite Taiwan as an observer.

“I’m not very willing to focus criticism on an individual and I believe she must be under great pressure, but I believe that as the most important leader of the WHO she should be able to make judgements and uphold the principle of global health,” Chen said.

Chan’s successor is to be one of three candidates — from Pakistan, Ethiopia or Britain.

“Our expectations are high and we believe that the next candidate will do better and we will give them our full support,” Chen said. “You can’t afford to exclude 23 million people from the global health network.”

Taiwan wants to be at the WHA meeting to share its experience in national health insurance, disease prevention, and know-how in areas such as hepatitis C treatment, HIV/AIDS, organ transplants and craniofacial treatment, Chen said.

The WHO is also the global coordinator of responses to disease outbreaks such as SARS, which hit Asia in 2002.

“After the SARS pandemic Taiwanese people are highly concerned with the incomplete disease prevention system and the untransparent information channels of mainland China,” Chen said.

Taiwan contributes to the system, having shared information on a mutating strain of bird flu imported from China earlier this year, Chen said.

“We don’t know when things will get worse, therefore the first to see this trend has to report in time so that the world will have better and faster action in developing vaccines and medicines,” he said.

The nation’s exclusion from the WHA meeting follows a similar refusal from the UN aviation agency’s conference in Canada in September last year.

“I believe that the continuation of such incidents will only show that some parties of the world care more about politics and their own desires than about basic human rights,” Chen said.

He said he would be willing to take any opportunity to meet and make contact with health officials from China.

“It is a must for all countries to cooperate with each other on the health of their citizens and I also believe it is the responsibility of the world to make sure that Taiwan is not excluded from the global health system,” he said.

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