Tue, May 17, 2005 - Page 3 News List

China tries to explain memorandum

SECRET AGREEMENT A Chinese official was expected to explain details of a memorandum Beijing signed with the WHO on Taiwan's participation in the world health body

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA

Sha Zukang (沙祖康), Chinese ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, said yesterday that China's memorandum of understanding with the World Health Organization (WHO) facilitating technical exchanges between Taiwan and the WHO is a "special arrangement" to deal with the Taiwan question in the health body before China and Taiwan resume dialogue.

Speaking to Taiwanese reporters at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's highest decision-making body, Sha noted that the memorandum is the first China has ever signed with an international organization to handle the cross-strait problem.

The memorandum, signed by China and the WHO Secretariat last Saturday, stipulates that Taiwan has to apply for the WHO's technical assistance through China and that all exchanges between Taiwan and the WHO have to be approved by Beijing.

Neither China nor the WHO Secretariat consulted Taiwan over the contents of the memorandum, in which Taiwan is treated as a part of China. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it will never accept the memorandum if the document denigrates Taiwan's national status in any way.

Sha, however, argued that the contents of such memorandums are often kept secret.

"We will inform Taiwan of the details of the memo through proper channels in due course. We haven't done that yet," Sha said. "Only China and Taiwan can solve cross-strait problems."

Chinese Minister of Health Gao Qiang (高強) was to hold a press conference yesterday evening to explain the details of the memorandum.

The memorandum is significant for Taiwan because "diseases do not wait for political problems to be solved," Sha said.

Those comments were in marked contrast to Sha's harsh response to Taiwan's SARS problem in 2003. Two years ago, while Taiwan was struggling to contain the SARS epidemic, Sha snapped at Taiwanese reporters as they approached him in that year's WHA, saying: "Who cares about you?"

Meanwhile, a group of Taiwanese, including doctors, nurses and Aborigines, staged a protest yesterday morning outside the Palais des Nations in Geneva -- where the WHA is meeting -- against the WHO's isolation of Taiwan

Holding banners with slogans in several languages appealing for support for Taiwan's bid to join the WHO, the Taiwanese sang songs, including a song named Victory for Taiwan

It was cold and rainy in Geneva yesterday, but the bad weather did not douse the Taiwanese campaigners' passion for the WHO bid.

Members of the North America Taiwanese Women's Association (NATWA) also went to the Chinese embassy in Geneva around 30 minutes before the opening of the WHA to protest against China's obstruction of Taiwan's WHO bid.

They handed a letter to the embassy requesting that China relent in its opposition to Taiwan's bid. Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission Minister Chang Fu-mei (張富美), the founding president of NATWA, said association members wanted China to know that Taiwanese people care deeply about their health and human rights.

"China always lies to the international community about how Beijing has taken care of the Taiwanese people's health. We feel very bad about that and hope China understands our feelings," Chang said.

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