WHO agrees to visit Taiwan if needed: memo

HEALTH CHECK: KMT official Chang Jung-kung said that China and the WHO agreed on experts visiting the nation in the event of disease breakout


Mon, May 30, 2005 - Page 1

If Taiwan experiences an outbreak of disease that might seriously affect public health, the World Health Organization (WHO) will, if necessary, send experts here to give assistance, according to the contents of a memorandum of understanding it signed on May 14 with China.

The memorandum, which is designed to specify a stable mechanism for Taiwan to take part in WHO activities at the technical level, has already been put into effect.

Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), spokesman and director of the department of mainland China affairs of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), said yesterday that he has just obtained the contents of the memorandum through China's institutions in charge of Taiwan affairs.

According to Chang, the important contents of the memorandum say that the aim of the memorandum is to help Taiwan's medical and public-health experts attend the technical exchange activities held by the WHO Secretariat, while adhering to the UN Charter and the WHO's goals and organization rules.

Additionally, the exchanges will mainly touch on three kinds of issues:

First, the WHO Secretariat can invite Taiwan's medical and public health experts to individually attend its technical activities. If necessary, Taiwan's experts can say they come from "Taiwan, China."

Second, the WHO Secretariat can send its staff and experts to Taiwan to examine the public health and contagious disease situation, as well as discuss health issues with Taiwan's medical and public health experts and provide medical and public health technical assistance.

Third, if Taiwan faces a serious outbreak, the WHO Secretariat will, if necessary, send experts to Taiwan as soon as possible and give technical assistance, or invite Taiwan's medical and public health experts to join technical activities initiated by the secretariat.

According to Chang, the memorandum also says that this is a special arrangement in the absence of an agreement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait on relevant matters. The two sides are encouraged to hold talks and jointly find an appropriate means for Taiwan to join the WHO as soon as possible.

The government has previously voiced opposition to the memorandum.

Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂), minister of the Department of Health under the Executive Yuan, made a strong protest to the WHO about its arbitrary decision to sign the memorandum with China without Taiwan's agreement.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also said that Beijing has no right to unilaterally hold consultations and make arrangements with the WHO for Taiwan's participation in the global health body's activities, and has said that the government cannot accept any arrangement that might downgrade the nation's status.

Sha Zukang (沙祖康), the representative of China's permanent mission to the UN Office in Geneva, said in a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency that "both sides of the Taiwan Strait should resolve their own health issues. Currently, both sides have some political problems, but disease will not await [the resolution of political problems]."

"Therefore, China will first sign a memorandum of understanding with the WHO as a special arrangement prior to an agreement between Taipei and Beijing," he said.

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