Tue, Jan 06, 2009 - Page 3 News List

KMT expresses confidence over WHA participation

By Ko Shu-ling and Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday expressed optimism over the country’s prospects at participating in a meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May.

KMT deputy secretary-general Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭) said that Beijing “would seriously consider” the matter this year and that it was likely to bear fruit.

Chang made the remarks after comments by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Wednesday.

In a speech to mark the 30th anniversary of Beijing’s “open letter to Taiwanese compatriots,” Hu said he understood Taiwan’s desire to take part in “international activities.”

Hu, however, said that China would not tolerate any move that suggested independence, “two Chinas,” or “one China, one Taiwan.”

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said that both sides are in negotiations, but stopped short of saying who was conducting the negotiations, where they were happening or what form the negotiations were taking.

Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that both sides may be just “talking about” the issue, rather than conducting formal negotiations.

Chang yesterday said it could take a while before negotiation formally take place between the Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.

However, “the communication channels between both sides are flexible,” he said, adding that he believed Beijing would address the issue.

Chang yesterday said that Beijing has been paying more attention to Taiwan’s demands to participate in international organizations since former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) visited Hu in 2005. Hu’s recent remarks pushed the Lien-Hu communique one step further, Chang said.

Chang said that as Beijing increasingly favors Taiwan’s participation in APEC and the WHA, the odds of Taiwan’s participating in other international organizations were more promising, especially given the resumption of bilateral talks since Ma took office last year.

Meanwhile, Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said on Sunday he would attend the WHA meeting in Geneva in May, where he looked forward to sharing Taiwan’s experiences with creating smoke-free environments.

Yeh made the remarks at an event to promote smoke-free taxis with the new Tobacco Hazards and Prevention Act (菸害防治法) which comes into effect on Sunday. This will prohibit smoking in public spaces and on transportation, including taxis, as well as keep in-store cigarette advertisements and promotional activities to a minimum.

Since 1997, Taiwan has unsuccessfully sent a delegation to Geneva every year to attend the WHA, the WHO’s top decision-making body.

If Taiwan were allowed to participate in the WHA as an observer, Yeh would be the first health minister to enter the WHA as an official DOH minister, DOH spokesperson Wang Je-chau (王哲超) said. However, it was still too early to tell whether this would happen, as the government is pushing for observer status, he said.

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