Taiwanese delegates faced tremendous pressure at the World Health Assembly (WHA), but worked professionally and with dignity, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) told a press conference organized by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday after returning from Geneva.
Taiwan’s participation in the WHA this year was marred by the release of a WHO internal memo detailing the careful approach to be taken by WHO officials when discussing Taiwan’s status vis-a-vis China, including usage of “Taiwan, province of China.”
Leading Taiwan’s delegates at the meetings, Chiu said that while he was under a lot of pressure, the delegates acted professionally, protected the nation’s sovereignty and showed strength to the world.
By participating in three assembly meetings and 14 technical activities, bilateral talks, a cocktail reception and an international press conference, they were able to make their voice heard on the international stage while maintaining dignity, he said.
Shen praised the delegates for their “professional behavior and kind diplomatic gestures,” which he said included protesting according to international rules.
Shen said the manner in which they protested had gained international recognition, including 117 international media reports that covered Taiwan’s participation at the WHA and support from US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who said that no organization at the UN had a right to unilaterally determine the status of Taiwan.
Chiu said the delegation strongly protested to legal counsel of the WHO, Gian Luca Burci, about the confidential memo on the opening day of the WHA.
Chiu said he told Burci: “Our government strongly protests against the WHO internal memo. The content of the memo is absolutely unacceptable to us. We think that the exchange of letters in 2009 should be more legally binding than the internal memo and we ask the WHO to refer to us as ‘Chinese Taipei’ following the WHA invitation model.”
The exchange of letters in 2009 refers to letters agreeing to accept Taiwan as part of the implementation network of International Health Regulations and asked for a “point of contact in Taipei” to be designated in Taiwan.
“In the protest letter, we said that as we are the ‘highest and sole authority,’ there is no use in the WHO negotiating with China,” Shen said.
“Burci told us he would pass the protest letter on to WHO -Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) and praised ‘Chinese Taipei’ for its continued participation and good performance at the WHA,” Chiu said.
Asked about the letter, Chiu said they had yet to receive a -formal -response from Chan.
“I was deeply moved to see the minister taking a seat in the assembly and speaking on stage,” said KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍), who was also a delegate at the WHA.
This was a moment Taiwan should be proud of, since it could not have taken place before Taiwan became an observer at the WHA in 2009, Hsu said.
Shen said he was head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Geneva from 2003 to 2009 and at that time, Taiwan’s ministers had to wait in line with the public to get an observer’s pass to enter the Palais des Nations, he said, adding that this year’s WHA model should be continued.