Sat, Apr 20, 2002 - Page 3 News List

US House endorses Taiwan's WHO bid

POLICY STATEMENT The House of Representatives Policy Committee says denying the nation access to WHO services would pose a `grave threat' to Taiwanese society


The US House of Representatives Policy Committee declared on Thursday that Taiwan must no longer be excluded from the WHO because "health should not be a political weapon."

Committee members voted unanimously at an executive session to approve the policy statement, which represents the official position of the House majority.

According to the statement, denying the people of Taiwan access to the health information, aid and emergency resources of the organization poses a "needless and grave threat" to Taiwan's society.

The statement noted that the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) makes it US policy to resist any "form of coercion" that would jeopardize "the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan."

Therefore, "in faithfulness to the TRA and the policies of every American president since Jimmy Carter, and with concern and compassion for the health of the millions of people of Taiwan, it is essential that the United States continue to support Taiwan's efforts to obtain observer status in the WHO," the statement added.

The World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's annual general assembly, will meet in Geneva May 13 to 17, when "any member state may submit a proposal for observer status for Taiwan," the statement noted, adding that China's previous efforts to keep such proposals off the assembly agenda were in fact a violation to the organization's own rules of procedure.

Meanwhile, according to the local media, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has ordered the US delegation to the WHO to fully support Taiwan's bid.

In other developments on Thursday, Department of Health Director-General Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) called the world's attention to Taiwan's "humble humanitarian quest" for observer status at the Geneva meeting.

Speaking in New York, Lee stressed that the bid is "a humble humanitarian quest, not a political scheme."

"The fact that Palestine, the Holy See, Liechtenstein, the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta and the International Red Cross are observers of the WHA warrants a serious consideration of Taiwan's justification and application," he said.

"Vectors of disease recognize no national boundary," Lee added. "In the global efforts to prevent and control diseases, no single entity should be left out like a discriminated lone soul among a sea of multitudes. And yet, Taiwan is one such soul."

Lee has just wrapped up a visit to Washington to lobby for US support.

He noted that Taiwan has contributed over US$100 million since 1995 in technical and training assistance, medical aid and humanitarian assistance to some 80 countries and that The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation (慈濟公德會) offered manpower, relief funds, goods and cash donations of over US$1 million to New York City for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Taiwan has also given over US$17 million to Afghan relief efforts, Lee said.

However, he noted that Tai-wanese helping with the Afghan relief mission did so at their own risk, since they could not expect protection from any international organization or treaty.

"It's simply morally right to grant Taiwan due representation with observer status as a health entity at the WHA," Lee said.

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