The Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) says that the disclosure of an internal WHO memo instructing its agencies to refer to Taiwan as a province of China has sent “shockwaves” through the overseas Taiwanese community.
“The episode shows that the [President] Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] administration has been deceptive and given the Taiwanese public an unwarranted rosy picture of the situation,” FAPA president Bob Yang (楊英育) said.
Dated Sept. 14 last year, the memo says that procedures used by the WHO to facilitate relations with Taiwan were subject to Chinese approval and that Taiwan “as a province of China, cannot be party to the International Health Regulations (IHR).”
In a statement distributed to the US press, FAPA said: “The information in the memo stands in stark contrast to the image presented by the Ma Ying-jeou administration, which emphasized that Taiwan’s observership — started in 2009 — amounted to ‘substantive participation’ and had come about as a result of direct negotiations with the WHO, without Chinese involvement.”
“The fact of the matter is that Taiwan’s participation is an empty shell, without any substance,” Yang added. “This memo shows clearly the failure of the Ma administration’s policies to gain international space.”
He said that China continued to block real participation by Taiwan’s medical specialists in the WHO and that by agreeing to Chinese demands and conditions, the WHO had violated the principle of universality.
“China’s motives are clear,” Yang said. “It wants to absorb Taiwan and leave it no international space whatsoever.”
Asked about the memo following a speech by President Ma at a videoconference with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Bonnie Glaser — a senior fellow at the center — said it was part of a “challenge” that Taiwan had faced in the past and would face again in the future.
“There are instances in which Beijing presses international organizations to use terminology and labels to describe Taiwan that are unacceptable to the people of Taiwan,” she said. “This is not -something that we are going to be able to resolve very easily, but it is important not just for Taiwan to push back, but for the international community to stand up and support the usage of a label for Taiwan that is acceptable not just to the mainland, but also to the people of Taiwan.”
“Calling Taiwan a province of China is not helpful to winning over the hearts and minds of the people of Taiwan or to promoting reconciliation between the two sides of the strait,” she added. “I personally think it is counter-productive for Beijing to pursue such policies and I hope that they will realize that in the future.”