Mon, May 22, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Medical professionals gather to support Taiwan's bid

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA

Nearly 100 Taiwanese medical professionals practicing both at home and abroad gathered in Geneva yesterday to support the nation's 10th bid to become an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA)

The WHA commences today and will consider, among other things, whether to allow the admission of Taiwan's application to join the WHO.

Wearing green T-shirts printed with the slogan "Taiwan for WHO," groups of Taiwanese gathered on the sidewalk next to Lake Geneva to chant slogans and hold banners to support Taiwan's bid.

"Health for all with Taiwan," read one of the banners.

This year the nation's supporters were not allowed to hand out pamphlets as the Swiss police denied an application filed by the Medical Professional Alliance of Taiwan, the organizer of the campaign.

Another plan to launch hot-air balloons in the city center was also turned down.

Those who participated in yesterday's activity included members of the North American Taiwanese Medical Association, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, doctors and nurses from Taiwan's Sin Lau Hospital (the nation's oldest), and the European Taiwanese Medical Association.

"Our goal [to obtain WHA observer status] seems a long way off, but we can't lose heart," said Wu Shu-min (吳樹民), president of the Medical Professional Alliance of Taiwan.

Wu expressed doubts about the government's campaign for "meaningful participation," saying it had undermined the nation's dignity.

He said the experiences of Taiwanese officials participating in WHO technical meetings as members from "Taiwan, China" or "Taipei, China" had shown the problems of so-called "meaningful participation."

In related news, Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) expressed his concern for WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook, who had emergency surgery yesterday after suffering a stroke.

In a press release issued by the Department of Health, Hou expressed his appreciation for Lee's contribution to facilitating the participation of Taiwanese officials in a range of WHO-sponsored technical meetings in the past year.

South Korea's Lee, 61, began his five-year-term as director-general of the WHO on July 21, 2003.

In addition, the health minister yesterday invited his Chinese counterpart, Gao Giang (高強), to a formal consultation meeting in Geneva on health issues concerning both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

"We hope we can cooperate and concentrate our resources and share information on how can we make our people more healthy. Geneva would be a very good place, and the WHA will be a good platform to talk and to cooperate under the basis of equality, transparency, democracy and health," Hou said.

Hou also proposed the health authorities of the two governments establish a hotline to cope with any disease outbreaks, particularly potential outbreaks of avian flu.

"There is no avian flu present in animals or human in Taiwan, but we are concerned about what's happening in mainland China. In that case, we'd really like to share information and know what's going on with China," Hou said.

Meanwhile, the US State Department issued a press release on Friday applauding the WHO and China for increasing Taiwan's ability to participate in technical conferences.

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