Wed, May 09, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Delegation to protest WHA exclusion

OBSTRUCTION:Rejecting Beijing’s claims as spurious, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that only the nation’s popularly elected government can represent its 23 million people

By Stacy Hsu and Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporters

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung speaks at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on Thursday last week.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), Taiwan is sending a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland, to protest Taiwan’s exclusion from this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decisionmaking body.

Chen yesterday told reporters that the delegation would go to Geneva as planned to speak up for Taiwan, aiming to gain wider recognition from more countries and to let them know that Taiwan has the ability to contribute to universal health coverage, a theme stressed by the WHO.

“Chinese obstruction is the main reason Taiwan cannot participate in the WHA,” Chen said, hitting back at Beijing’s claim that Taiwan does not have a political basis for attending the global forum.

“I must stress that the WHO is an organization that takes the human right to healthcare as its standpoint and aims to ‘leave no one behind,’” he said.

The delegation plans to deliver a letter of protest after arriving in Geneva, depending on the results of a two-on-two debate and conditions at the time, he said.

Many international organizations and governments have spoken up for Taiwan this year, showing that more people understand that Taiwanese’s right to health should not be neglected, he said, adding that he believes the efforts will some day lead to success.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday also issued a statement expressing regret over the WHA’s decision not to invite Taiwan.

The ministry issued the statement yesterday morning, just hours after the online registration deadline for this year’s WHA expired in Switzerland, where the annual health conference is scheduled to be held in Geneva from May 21 to May 26.

“Health is not only a fundamental human right, but also a universal value, something that should be guaranteed to every individual regardless of their race, religion, political beliefs or economic status,” the ministry said in the statement.

Such a principle is clearly stated in the WHO’s charter and serves as the foundation for the international health body to invite Taiwan to attend its annual WHA and related meetings in an equal manner, the ministry said.

Taiwan had participated in the WHA as an observer from 2009 and 2016, but it did not receive an invitation last year due to Chinese pressure.

The last invitation it received was only days before President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office on May 20, 2016, and came with an unprecedented mention of Beijing’s “one China” principle.

The government had explored all possible ways to increase international support for its bid to attend this year, including resorting to international media and launching online propaganda campaigns to underline Taiwan’s dedication to public health, the ministry said.

Many of the nation’s diplomatic allies and like-minded countries have also repeatedly thrown their support behind its WHA bid, for which the ministry expressed its sincere gratitude in the statement.

Responding to China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan’s (安峰山) statement on Monday that Beijing has “made a proper arrangement” regarding Taiwan’s participation in global health affairs under the “one China” principle, the ministry said that only Taiwan’s popularly elected government is entitled to represent its 23 million people and take charge of their healthcare.

The Japanese newspaper Fuji SanKei Business yesterday also ran an article written by Chen, titled “Taiwan requests attendance at the WHA,” in which he expressed the wish that the nation can participate in the event as an observer and the reasons it deserves to attend.

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