Sun, May 19, 2019 - Page 1 News List

US lawmakers call for WHA inclusion

‘TROUBLED’:The group of US representatives expressed concern over the need for a ‘cross-strait understanding,’ which has allowed China to veto Taiwan’s participation

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

The WHO logo sits on the organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Heavyweight US lawmakers on Friday called on the WHO to invite Taiwan to attend this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA), its decisionmaking body.

US representatives Steven Chabot, Gerry Connolly, Mario Diaz-Balart and Albio Sires — cochairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus in the US House of Representatives — sent a joint letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to urge the global health organization to include Taiwan in the 72nd session of the WHA.

This year’s assembly is scheduled to open tomorrow in Geneva, Switzerland, and run through May 28.

Taiwan was not invited to attend the meeting, as China again opposed its participation due to Taipei’s refusal to accept Beijing’s “one China” principle.

“We are concerned that Taiwan has not yet received an invitation, given that the WHA begins in less than a week,” the US lawmakers said in the letter.

“We are particularly troubled by recent media reports that the World Health Organization is unlikely to invite Taiwan to participate in the absence of a ‘cross-strait understanding’ between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, a position that gives Beijing veto power over whether Taiwan can participate,” they said.

Taiwan had hoped to attend the WHA as an observer, as it had done from 2009 to 2016.

Taiwan has provided more than 80 countries with more than US$6 billion in humanitarian and medical assistance over the past quarter-century, the four US lawmakers said.

They cited the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying that the nation runs more than 50 programs to fight diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, bird flu, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome, Zika fever, dengue fever, breast cancer and kidney failure in more than 20 countries in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific.

Taiwan has also worked extensively with the US on research on influenza, chronic diseases, injury prevention, rotavirus, norovirus, vaccine advocacy, foodborne illness, zoonotic diseases and tobacco use epidemiology, among other health issues, the four lawmakers said.

“Taiwan has set an example for others to follow with its commitment to international health cooperation,” they said.

“Taiwan’s demonstrated healthcare expertise in several areas enables it to contribute meaningfully to the urgent healthcare needs of the international community,” they added.

Since 2017, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan to the WHA, due to its displeasure over President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party refusing to accept the so-called “1992 consensus” — a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000 that refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

In the eight years until Tsai took office, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

Despite not receiving an invitation to this year’s WHA, a delegation led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) on Friday departed for Geneva to increase the global community’s understanding about Taiwan’s contributions to global health.

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