Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Government not backing down on bid to join WHO

PROSPECTS REMAIN BLEAKThe deputy-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said even though the formal application had been rejected, efforts would continue

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will not back down from its bid to gain membership of the WHO or observer status at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) using the name “Taiwan,” even though the body on Friday rejected President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) formal application to join the group, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

MOFA Deputy-General Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) said in spite of the rejection, the nation would continue to negotiate with its allies on pushing its bid to join the upcoming WHA.

“So far all negotiations are going smoothly,” he said, but he agreed the prospect of admittance remained bleak this year because of Beijing’s relentless obstruction of the nation’s efforts to participate in international organizations.

Nicaraguan Vice President James Morales in an interview with a Nicaraguan newspaper said that “disease knows of no border” and that Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO would ease the current global food shortage crisis because Taiwan was already contributing to many developing countries, including Nicaragua.

Department of Health (DOH) Deputy Director-General Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉) said in addition to seeking support from the nation’s allies for the bid, his department had also solicited support from medical groups and health authorities in other countries.

Letters of petition have been sent to 158 health ministers in various parts of the world, but so far none have replied, Chen Tzay-jinn said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers across party lines slammed the MOFA and DOH for taking “non-pragmatic” measures in pushing this year’s WHO bid.

While the pan-green camp have argued that the government should toughen its stance, the pan-blues have been urging a more flexible approach, such as applying using the name “Chinese Taipei” instead of “Taiwan.”

This is the nation’s 12th consecutive bid for a seat in the international health body. All past attempts have been foiled by Beijing, which claims Taiwan does not deserve a place in the WHO because, according to the UN, Taiwan is part of China.

President Chen in his 2004 inauguration speech vowed to make Taiwan a bona fide WHO member within two years. The following year, the WHO and Beijing signed a secret memorandum of understanding to severely limit Taiwan’s access to the organization.

In March, China’s representative to Geneva, Li Baodong (李保東), wrote a letter to all WHO member states requesting that they ignore all Taiwan-related issues at the upcoming assembly. MOFA said so far no member states had responded enthusiastically to China’s request.

In addition to excluding Taiwan from the body, the WHO has also repeatedly refused to accredit journalists with Taiwanese passports, saying as a UN subsidiary, the WHO must abide by UN regulations which prohibit reporters from non-UN member nations from covering events in a UN building.

The refusal has sparked heavy criticism from various international media-related organizations, such as the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists, the Vienna-based International Press Institute and most recently the US-based National Newspaper Association (NNA), which urged the health body to recognize the Taiwanese reporters’ right to cover the meeting.

In a letter to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), the NNA said infectious disease is a global issue concerning everyone in the world and information on disease control must not be limited to UN members only.

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