Wed, May 22, 2019 - Page 1 News List

WHA’s ‘health for all’ rings false: Chen

SITTING ON SIDELINES:Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said that he questioned the ability of the WHO to ‘walk the talk,’ the organization’s goal this year

By Lee I-chia and Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporters

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, second left, and officials watch a World Health Assembly (WHA) event on the screen at a news conference held in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday to promote Taiwan’s WHA bid.

Photo: CNA

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) yesterday said that he feels as if he is watching a satire when members of the World Health Assembly (WHA) talk about “health for all” and “leaving no one behind,” while Taiwan is left sitting outside the meeting venue.

Chen said he was deeply saddened that the more than 23 million people of Taiwan, which was not invited to attend this year’s meeting, are being left out of the WHA, and he questioned the ability of the WHO to “walk the talk” — a goal that the organization set for itself this year.

An international news conference that the delegation held at noon was successful, he said, adding that several reporters even asked questions about cross-strait relations.

At the news conference, the delegation played a video clip of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) saying that “health for all is a powerful concept, but only if we work together to make it a reality. So if you believe in that idea, please use your platform to speak up for Taiwan, because Taiwan can help.”

“The People’s Republic of China [PRC] has no right to decide whether Taiwan can participate, nor does it have the right to decide what name we should use to participate,” Chen said. “Taiwan will not give up an iota of its sovereignty.”

Chen said that on Sunday he asked the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Geneva, Switzerland, to deliver to the WHO a letter of strong protest, which said that the PRC has no right to keep Taiwan from participating in the WHA and that the WHO is wrong to say that Taiwan is a province of China, while adding that Taiwan hopes to contribute to global healthcare and be invited to the WHA in the future.

“It is a long and difficult road, but we must go on,” Chen said, adding that he was moved by and grateful to all the health officials from Taiwan’s allies and like-minded countries for speaking up on behalf of Taiwan and supporting its participation in the WHA.

At the opening of the WHA on Monday, health representatives from the US, the UK and Germany voiced support for Taiwan’s participation.

In a speech to the assembly, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said: “Both the Global Health Security Agenda and vaccination campaigns benefit from the involvement of every nation, people and sector.”

“We regret that, once again, Taiwan was not invited to observe at this assembly, as they were from 2009 to 2016. The 23 million people in Taiwan deserve a voice just as much as anyone else does,” he said.

“The United States supports universal health coverage and we believe that means focusing on access to a high-quality, person-centered healthcare system, not selectively focusing on controversial issues that do not help us reach this worthy goal,” Azar said.

German Minister of Health Jens Spahn and British Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Health Nicola Blackwood-Bate also highlighted the value of “health for all” and that diseases recognize no national borders.

A proposal by 14 of Taiwan’s allies that the WHA invite Taiwan to participate as an observer was brought up at a meeting of the WHA General Committee, but was not placed on the committee’s agenda after debate between four of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies — Eswatini, Honduras, the Marshall Islands and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — and Chinese representatives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

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