Sat, May 18, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Health minister heads to Geneva

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, left, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu answer questions at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

A delegation led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) yesterday evening left for Geneva, Switzerland, to push for Taiwan’s participation in this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA), the decisionmaking body of the WHO.

The 72nd session of the WHA is to start in Geneva on Monday and end on May 28.

Taiwan has not received an invitation to the WHA for the past three years, not because it did not work hard enough, but because of Beijing’s obstruction, Chen told a joint news conference with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei.

“It is very regrettable that [China] interferes in medical issues via political means, but we will not give up,” Chen said.

The delegation aims to promote the nation’s advantages in disease prevention, public health and healthcare in concert with its allies and like-minded countries, he said.

While some countries have reported more than 1,000 measles cases, infections in Taiwan have not exceeded 100, demonstrating the nation’s solid disease prevention capability, he added.

In 2013, Taiwan was the first nation to identify the influenza A virus subtype H6N1 and immediately shared relevant information with the global community, Chen said.

“We need the WHA and the WHA needs us as well,” Chen said, adding that Taiwan would fare better if it could obtain instant information about epidemics.

The WHO has run against its own charter, which upholds the spirit of “health for all,” because it has ignored the rights of nearly 23 million Taiwanese, for whom the nation expresses its strong protest at not being invited to the WHA, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said.

From 2009 to last year, Taiwanese health experts applied to attend 165 WHO technical meetings, but were only granted permission for 49, he said.

The UN has also defied its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the freedom of opinion and the right to receive information, when it rejected Taiwanese journalists, he added.

Despite Beijing’s continuous pressure, Taiwan has garnered unprecedentedly strong support from its friends, including those in the US, UK, EU, Japan, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Argentina and Chile, among others, Wu said.

The delegation would participate in bilateral meetings or side events held by the nation’s allies and like-minded countries to share its achievements in healthcare, as well as try to break last year’s record of 60 bilateral meetings, he said.

Asked if the government would protest via other means, Chen said that the delegation would decide on what action to take after the meetings.

The foreign ministry is also working to obtain permits for non-governmental representatives to sit in the meetings, Wu said.

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