Tue, May 07, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan to use own name in upcoming WHA bid

POLICY CHANGE Applying as a `health entity' not a sovereign state, the government will drop `ROC' in favor of `Taiwan,' which it sees as less controversial

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau holds up a promotional CD for Taiwan's push to become an observer in the WHO as foreign minister Eugene Chien looks on during a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan for the first time is to apply for observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA) as a "health entity" in what officials termed a move to mitigate opposition from China and other countries in the country's sixth annual bid to join the WHO.

But the nation would formally apply under the name of "Taiwan," officials said, a move that apparently changed the policy of previous applications since 1997, when the country applied under its formal designation of Republic of China.

"We aspire to take part in the World Health Organization not because we intend to confront China, nor to move towards Taiwan independence. It's based on the basic rights and welfare of the people of Taiwan in the health arena," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新).

Taiwan decided to put forward the new concept of "health entity" to describe its capacity in joining the WHA, with an emphasis on the "functionality" of the organization, said Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂).

"We've been quite pragmatic and flexible by applying under the concept of `health entity,'" Kau said.

"It is also a gesture of good will to the People's Republic of China. Both sides can enhance their cooperation in cross-border health issues under the WHO," Kau said, urging Beijing to adopt "an open, flexible and pragmatic approach" to Taipei's WHO bid.

Department of Health Director-General Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) said: "Our appeal by terming ourselves as a `health entity' is to put aside the sovereignty dispute, but this move is not to deny our own sovereignty."

As the WHA, the highest decision-making body of the WHO, is slated to be held in Geneva from May 13 to 18, the foreign ministry and the Department of Health yesterday held a joint press conference to raise the profile of Taipei's ongoing efforts in its bid.

The government also during the press conference formally released its position paper on the new concept of "health entity" in its WHO bid.

"Taiwan should be allowed to participate in the WHO as a health entity. Participation in the WHO is not a question of sovereignty. The WHO is the only global forum that coordinates the activities of health entities to ensure that all peoples around the world realize their inalienable human right to the highest level," the position paper said.

"To achieve this laudable objective, the WHO must include all health entities representing substantial populations, and must not exclude any segment of the world's people," the paper said.

But Taipei's decision to formally apply under the name of "Taiwan" raised some misgivings during the press briefing.

"In participating in international organizations, the best option for us is to join under the name of the ROC. But in reality China simply could not coexist with us, so China found the appellation `ROC' unacceptable," Kau said.

With regards to the prospects of success during the Geneva meeting, an official said: "By raising the new concept of `health entity,' we hope the discussion on Taiwan's case can move onto a different plateau.'

"We've made some progress, and we hope to build up the momentum," the official added.

Membership of the WHO, as an UN-affiliated agency, is limited to sovereign states, according to the WHO constitution. But the procedural rules of the WHA does not specify qualifications for its observers.

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