Wed, May 18, 2005 - Page 3 News List

China tells Taiwan it has `always' been ready to give its aid

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA

Chinese Minister of Health Gao Giang (高強) said in Geneva yesterday that Taiwan's Center for Disease Control (CDC) can work with its Chinese counterpart to handle Taiwan's technical exchanges with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Gao called a press conference after the first-day sessions of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's highest decision-making body, closed on Monday evening.

Taiwan's ninth bid to join the WHO as an observer failed on Monday because of China's opposition.

The Chinese official explained to foreign and Taiwanese journalists that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) he signed with WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook last Saturday to facilitate technical exchanges between Taiwan and the WHO is an "exceptional arrangement" to handle Taiwan's health affairs before cross-strait dialogue resumes.

Accompanied by Sha Zukang (沙祖康), the Chinese ambassador to the UN Office in Geneva, Gao said the MOU, in which Taiwan is designated as part of China, "circumvents political issues" to deal with Taiwan's health problems in a "pragmatic" manner.

Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs has said the MOU is unacceptable because it encroaches on Taiwan's sovereignty and treats the country as part of China.

Asked why China did not consult Taiwan over the MOU before it was signed, Gao said he "did not have the channel to do so."

"I really don't know what they [Taiwanese officials] want," Gao said in regard to Taiwan's rejection of the MOU. "The memo is a practical way to solve Taiwan's health issues."

The Chinese official said he "felt very angry" about Taiwan's diplomatic allies' proposals to the WHO to add Taiwan's application for observer status to the WHA agenda over the past nine years.

Gao claimed that Beijing has "always" helped Taiwanese medical and public health experts participate in WHO-related activities. But earlier this month, Taiwanese medical experts were barred from joining a WHO-sponsored tsunami health conference in Phuket due to pressure from China, WHO officials said.

Gao explained that the episode happened because "at the time, the MOU had not been signed yet."

He insisted that if Taiwan wants to send medical or public health experts to WHO-related activities, it "has to notify" China because Taiwan's exchanges with the WHO are "China's internal affairs."

Asked when Beijing will unveil contents of the MOU to Taiwan, Gao did not answer the question directly, but said he heard Taiwan rejected the memo even before it knew the actual contents of the document.

Gao denied that the MOU has anything to do with Chinese National Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) recent visits to Beijing.

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