Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Supporters feel pain of defeat

MIXED EMOTIONS Some cried, but most people who made the long trek to Geneva felt anger at China's full court press on the attempt to join the World Health Assembly

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER IN GENEVA

There were tears, anger and regret in Geneva on Monday as supporters of Taiwan's attempt to become an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA) learned that the application had failed for the seventh year in a row.

Before the start of the ass-embly's general committee meeting on Monday morning, members of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan raised banners in the square in front of the assembly venue, appealing for support for Taiwan's bid.

A handful of alliance members carried colorful banners that criticized in different languages the World Health Organization's (WHO) isolation of Taiwan during the worldwide SARS outbreak.

Among the banner-holders were Presidential Advisor Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民), head of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission Chang Fu-mei (張富美), and Giovanni Juang (莊振澤), an Italy-based Taiwanese businessman committed to promoting Taiwan's entrance into the WHO.

"WHO isolates Taiwan?" read the English banner. The group, led by Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉), executive director of the alliance, shouted, "Cheer up, Taiwan!"

Their voices were loud, but the appeal was ignored. A few hours later, the WHA general committee kicked out the proposal to include Taiwan's application to be a WHA observer in the assembly agenda.

Lin and his team of supporters were not surprised. To quash Taiwan's efforts, Wu Yi (吳儀), China's vice premier and minister of health, led China's delegation to Geneva and spoke out against Taiwan in the WHA general committee.

Realizing that the application had failed, Lin's voice, which had been chanting slogans all morning, wavered and finally cracked. She stopped, hugged a colleague and cried.

"I am thinking about those who have died of SARS in Taiwan," she sobbed.

After the general committee, Lin said that one of her friends spotted Wu Yi about to leave the building where the meeting took place.

Keen to present the Chinese official with one of the group's green T-shirts with the words "Say Yes to Taiwan" printed on the back, the friend moved toward Wu but was immediately stopped by assembly security guards. Standing nearby wearing their own green T-shirts were Lin and Chary Hsu (許佳惠), a Taiwanese reporter.

The security guards ordered Lin and Hsu to take off their T-shirts. Lin did so, but Hsu hesitated because she had nothing on underneath apart from her underwear.

"About five or six security guards surrounded me, all staring at me as I took off the T-shirt," Hsu said.

When Hsu took off her T-shirt, Lin's friend quickly covered her with his coat.

"I felt harassed," Hsu said.

The security guards took a note of their passports and allowed them to go.

Meanwhile, during the assembly's second plenary meeting that followed the general committee, the observer bid was raised again. China and Pakistan spoke against Taiwan, whereas Senegal and Panama appealed on the country's behalf.

Officials from Taiwan were forced to listen to the debate from the assembly's public gallery.

DPP Legislator Lee Ming-hseng (李明憲) shouted in protest as China told of how it had been looking after Taiwan's health.

Security guards stepped in and ordered Lee to keep his voice down. When Lee protested for the second time, security guards ejected him from the gallery.

"I came to realize how capable Chinese officials are of lying. I was so angry," said Lee, who is attending the WHA for the first time.

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