Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Legislator is full of hope for WHO bid to succeed

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP Legislator Chien Chao-tung (簡肇棟), a member of the legislature's Health, Welfare and Environmental Foundation (厚生會), left for Geneva on Friday in his third attempt to lend legislative support to the country's appeal for observer status at the World Health Assembly.

"A key factor in Taiwan's bid to obtain World Health Organization (WHO) membership this year would be the international community getting fed-up with China's savage behavior in covering-up the country's real SARS-infection situation and its unreasonableness in excluding Taiwan from the world's collaboration against the epidemic," he said.

Chien said that, after long observing the situation,Taiwan is increasing its chances to attain its goal this time.

He said that resentment of Beijing's dishonesty in concealing the severity of the SARS outbreak led to a number of countries reconsidering Taiwan's position. They feel that the country could not be excluded from international health discussions simply because of politics, as health-care concerns have no political boundaries, he added.

The rampant spreading of the pneumonia-like illness in Taiwan, Chien continued, reminded the world that toleration of China's opposition to the country joining the WHO could mean more countries would experience outbreaks if Taiwan failed to contain the virus on its own.

Chien said he learned from the ministry of foreign affairs that authorities from Japan, the US and EU had pledged their consolidated support for Taiwan's bid after witnessing the country's isolation.

He noted the improved response from Japan in particular. "More Japanese people endorse Taiwan's participation because they know that in these days of international travel, the mere three-hour flight separating the countries actually bring them very close to one another," Chien saidd.

"At this year's assembly, a few unexpected countries are likely to announce their full backing for Taiwan's bid, as Beijing's dishonesty had angered many countries."

But he said that tougher attempts at suppression were expected from China.

"The Chinese delegation headed by the `iron maiden' Wu Yi (吳儀), may be tougher in opposing Taiwan's bid than earlier attempts led by the former health minister Zhang Wenkang (張文康)," he said.

He quoted another message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Chinese government is demanding from its overseas missions to reinforce the one-China policy to their diplomatic allies.

Trying for the seventh time to become a member of the UN health agency, Chien was optimistic that this goal is within reach.

"Besides striving to get observer status under the title `health entity,' we found another way to be accepted by the health body after two precedents have been set. Cook Island and Niue, a South Pacific island country, had been acknowledged by the WHO despite not being members of the UN.

The legislator however said that Taiwanese individuals can do more than they have done to advance the objective.

"The country's business community does not use its profound influence and achievements on the international stage to call for Taiwan to be accepted, in order to contribute to advanced medicines technology and combating disease," he said.

Support for Taiwan's bid was high at a health seminar held in Europe, which highlighted Taiwan's isolation during the SARS outbreak, Chien said.

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