The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday reiterated its commitment to securing observer status for Taiwan at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), after a WHO spokesman said that an invitation would not be issued this year without a “cross-strait understanding.”
Asked by the Chinese-language Apple Daily whether the WHO would issue an invitation to Taiwan for the WHA in May, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that was unlikely to happen.
“Previous invitations to the WHA have been issued on the basis of a ‘cross-strait understanding.’ In the absence of such an understanding, invitations have not been issued,” Lindmeier was quoted as saying in an Apple Daily report published yesterday.
Photo: Lu Yi-hsuen, Taipei Times
If there is no “cross-strait understanding” this year, it is not expected that an invitation to the WHA would be issued to Taiwan, he said.
Lindmeier’s remarks might have dashed the hopes of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration to secure a WHA invitation for Taiwan this year after being snubbed the previous two years, apparently due to Chinese pressure.
The most recent invitation was received only days before Tsai was scheduled to take office on May 20, 2016, and came with an unprecedented mention of Beijing’s “one China” principle.
Taiwan first participated in the WHA as an observer in 2009, one year after then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office and his administration pursued a more conciliatory policy toward China.
The ministry yesterday said in a news release that it has instructed its representative office in Geneva, Switzerland, to express its discontent to the WHO secretariat and urge it to conform with its medical professionalism and invite Taiwan to attend the WHA as an observer.
In the past few years, the government’s positive advocacy for Taiwan’s WHA participation, which focuses on the nation’s professional, pragmatic and substantial contributions, has been widely recognized by the international community, it said.
“In addition to our diplomatic allies and like-minded nations such as the US and Japan, more and more countries are expressing their support for our cause,” the ministry said.
It said that it would work with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as well as civic groups, to use the growing wave of international support to secure an invitation for Taiwan, adding that China does not have the right to represent Taiwan’s democratically elected government.
Asked for comment, American Institute in Taiwan spokeswoman Amanda Mansour said that excluding Taiwan from global health, safety and law enforcement networks creates dangerous loopholes that can be exploited by malicious international and transnational actors.
“Taiwan has made important contributions to the fight against ISIS, humanitarian relief in Venezuela, combating the spread of Ebola and other critical, global efforts,” Mansour said, referring to the Islamic State group by one of the many acronyms used to refer to it.
“Taiwan has also demonstrated invaluable capabilities in the fields of disaster relief, medical technology, law enforcement and advancing women’s economic empowerment, and many more,” she said.
Washington applauds Taiwan’s substantive contributions to the more than 60 international organizations it participates in, and would continue to support Taiwan as it expands its significant global contributions, she added.
The British Office Taipei said that the British government has made representations to the WHO to facilitate Taiwan being an observer at this year’s WHA.
“The UK will continue to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the WHA,” it said.
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