China yesterday accused Taiwan of harboring ulterior motives in its recent failed attempt to join the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer.
"What we are on guard against and are opposed to is Taiwan using the excuse of joining the WHO to carry out separatist activities or trying to create two Chinas or one China, one Taiwan," said Li Weiyi (李維一), a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office.
"This is to say their real purpose for joining the WHO is not for Taiwanese compatriots' rights to health but for political motives," Li told a monthly press conference.
China this month succeeded in pressing the WHO to defeat the seventh attempt by Taiwan to gain observer status in the global health body.
Taiwan has strongly criticized the move as it battles rising numbers of SARS infections, and has rejected Beijing's offers for medical aid and assistance.
Li yesterday called Taiwan's refusal to accept help from Beijing "very regrettable."
"I think Taiwan authorities are using politics to see everything," Li said. "Cross-strait compatriots are flesh and blood compatriots. Mutual concern is sincere."
He said China had selected highly experienced medical workers from Guangdong Province and Beijing hospitals who are ready to go to Taiwan at any time to help.
At the same time, he said, China welcomes Taiwanese SARS experts.
Li also rejected Taiwan's allegation that China was trying to diminish its role within the WTO.
Taipei officials said China had pressured the WTO into requesting that Taiwan start referring to its "office" instead of "permanent mission" and that it refrain from using "ambassador" and other diplomatic titles for officials.
Li said China makes a distinction between Taiwan using international organizations to promote separatism and Taiwan going through civil groups to get information it needs from the organizations.
"What we are opposed to is Taiwan's authorities carrying out separatist activities in the name of Taiwanese people. [But] we've always cared about Taiwanese compatriots and we are sincere," Li said.
He said China has invited Taiwan to join its delegation attending WHO health meetings, such as the upcoming meeting in Malaysia next month and a SARS meeting to be held in Beijing next month for ASEAN member states plus China, Japan and South Korea.
Li acknowledged that SARS has had an impact on cross-straits trade, but he said the effect will be "short-term" since the timing of the outbreak and the areas affected are limited.
"With the control of the disease situation, I believe trade will very quickly return to normal," Li said.