Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Chen pushes for WHO referendum

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following Taiwan's failed bid to join the World Health Assembly (WHA), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday asked government agencies and opposition parties to propose a referendum on the country's entry into the World Health Organization (WHO).

"To let the world clearly understand Taiwan's determination to join the global health body, I would like to ask government agencies and parties across the political divide to consider a referendum," Chen said.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of Chen's inauguration. However, the celebrations were muted because of ongoing concerns over the SARS outbreak.

The president said the country's 23 million people urgently need a seat at WHO's table and expressed regret that Taiwan had been excluded again because of obstruction from China.

"China's abominable behavior in ignoring human life and human rights has not only revealed the brutality of the Chinese regime but unveiled the lies of the Chinese Communist Party," Chen said.

Despite the setback, Chen said the public will not change its belief that the provision of medical care should extend beyond national boundaries.

"A referendum would highlight the consensus and determination of Taiwan to participate in the WHO," Chen said. "We want to show the world that Taiwan's efforts will never stop," Chen said.

DPP Secretary General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday also condemned China for blocking Taiwan's entry into the WHO and described it as rubbing salt into the public's wounds.

"We deeply regret that the WHO used politics to exclude Taiwan from entry," Chang said. "That's why President Chen has raised the referendum proposal."

Chang added that the referendum would not conflict with Chen's inauguration promise that he would not push for a referendum on Taiwan's status quo.

In response to Chen's proposal, KMT spokesman Alex Tsai (蔡正元) yesterday said Taiwan needs wisdom to gain entry into the WHO, not a referendum, which is designed to solve a nation's internal affairs.

Tsai said it would be a "joke" if the DPP pushed for a referendum on its WHO bid.

Chang Chun-hung (張俊宏), a member of the DPP's Central Standing Committee, yesterday asked Premier Yu Shyi-kun to announce an emergency decree in a bid to tighten the nation's infection controls.

However, Yu said that since the passage of the SARS prevention bill and relief regulations, the government has sufficient legal basis to carry out all the necessary SARS infection controls.

Chen yesterday also instructed the nation's prosecutors to investigate any intentional concealment of SARS infections by hospital workers.

"Concealing SARS infections in hospitals is a criminal offense," Chang quoted Chen as saying. "The prosecutors should look into any possible concealment of SARS cases by ensuring that the proof is kept intact and available for further investigation."

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