WHO NAME GAME: Ma turns to EU for help in WHO furor

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA

Wed, May 18, 2011 - Page 1

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that the WHO should not have two sets of standards, and he requested the help of the European Parliament to demand the use of “Chinese Taipei” as the name for Taiwan.

Ma asked Charles Tannock, head of the European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group, to help ensure Taiwan is referred to properly at the WHO.

Ma said that Taiwan has taken part at the World Health Assembly as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei” since 2009, unlike in the past, when Taiwan was only invited to technical meetings.

He only learned recently about the WHO memo asking recipients to address Taiwan as a “province of China.”

“Upon learning the news, I myself and our health minister currently at the Geneva meeting lodged a strong protest,” Ma said, adding that as an organization with such high stature, the WHO should not have different sets of standards.

Ma said Taiwan has requested that the WHO respect its name of “Chinese Taipei” for the past three years, which he said was a name that was confirmed after an exchange of notes.

“The WHO should address us as ‘Chinese Taipei’ instead of ‘Taiwan, China.’ We hope you can help us ... in this regard, “ Ma told Tannock and his 10-member delegation.

Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達), head of Taiwan’s delegation at the 64th session of the WHA that opened on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, presented a letter to Gian Luca Burci, the WHO’s legal counsel, at 11:30am on Monday.

Burci accepted the letter and promised to immediately pass it on to WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍).

In the protest letter, which the DOH made public in Taipei yesterday, Taiwan expressed “utmost dissatisfaction” with the internal memo and its implications regarding the implementation of International Health Regulations (IHR) in Taiwan, demanding that the WHO redress the mistake which is “absolutely unacceptable to us.”

Chiu said in the letter to the WHO that he was writing on behalf of the nation, to “file a formal protest over improper procedure and erroneous terminology of political nature laid out” in the application of the IHR with respect to “Taiwan, province of China.”

According to the WHO memo, the terminology used in WHO publications and documents, either electronic or in hard copy, must be “Taiwan, province of China” and information related to Taiwan “must be listed or shown as falling under China and not separately” as if it referred to a separate state.

It showed that all communications between the WHO’s technical units and the “point of contact of Taiwan Province” would be channeled through the WHO contact point.

The WHO contact point, as necessary, would coordinate with the secretariat focal point concerning the implementation of the 2005 memorandum of understanding between China and the WHO that brings certain interactions with Taiwan under the WHO into China’s jurisdiction.

The memo cast into doubt the statement by the government that Taiwan’s participation in the IHR was made in the capacity of a “point of contact in Taipei” and that the inclusion of Taiwan in the IHR allows direct communication between the nation and the WHO.

“They have unwarranted political implications that are not only inconsistent with the reality, but also hinder the implementation of the IHR,” Chiu said in the letter.

Documents attached to the letter were a letter dated Jan. 2, 2009, sent by Bernard Kean that designated Taiwan as the “point of contact in Taipei” and the nation’s response to the letter dated Jan. 22 of that year by then-Centers for Disease Control director-general Steve Kuo (郭旭崧).

Chiu said Taiwan’s designation was “altered without our consent and knowledge in the WHO’s internal memo is most regrettable.”

“I hereby request that you immediately look into this grave matter and redress such a mistake that is unacceptable to us,” Chiu said.

Chiu concluded the letter by expressing gratitude to Chan for inviting him to attend the WHA session and also assured her that Taiwan’s delegation would continue to make substantial contributions to the work of the WHO.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that representatives of several of the nation’s allies — Gambia, Nauru, Nicaragua and Swaziland — were present when Chiu met with Burci, while the representatives of Palau and Panama also met with Chiu later to express their support.

Asked for comment, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) denied that the wording of the letter had not been strong enough, saying the criticism of the tone used in the letter were lost in translation.

“It was actually a strongly-worded protest if you read the English version. If you also look at [former US president Franklin] Roosevelt’s declaration of war against Japan [on Dec. 8, 1941], the Day of Infamy Speech, you would see that the tone of his speech was quite gentle,” Shen said.