Tue, Apr 04, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Government has plans to handle WHA invite: sources

‘NOT OPTIMISTIC’:The Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan said it is against accepting the ‘one China’ principle or attending the WHA as ‘Chinese Taipei’

By Chung Li-hua and Lin Hui-chin  /  Staff reporters

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has drafted several plans to handle the nation’s participation in this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA), including response measures if Taipei does not receive an invitation, sources said.

This year’s WHA is scheduled to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 22 through 31.

Tsai on Thursday met with representatives of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan, which has sent delegations to the annual UN health conference.

According to sources, who requested anonymity, alliance representatives told Tsai they oppose Taiwan bowing to the “one China” principle or using the name “Chinese Taipei” to attend the WHA.

“They hope Taiwan is able to attend the WHA using the appellation ‘Taiwan,’” the sources said, adding that Tsai told alliance members that the government has plans to prepare the nation for different scenarios regarding the WHA.

However, the sources said alliance representatives complained about the government’s lack of promotional efforts in the international arena this year, citing the absence of articles promoting Taiwan’s participation in the WHA in renowned international public health journals as an example.

“Although the situation this year is not optimistic, the government should not sit back and do nothing. It takes continuous efforts to gain friends and support,” the sources quoted the representatives as saying.

Tsai said she told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Welfare that the government should tap into the power of non-governmental organizations in to boost the nation’s stance and minimize the potential effects of the international problems it is facing, the sources said.

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while promotional articles in the international arena would allow people from other nations to understand Taiwan’s perspective, it is foreign health officials who can truly sway the WHO.

“We have been trying to lobby our friends, such as the US and Japan, to support our participation at the WHA,” the official said.

In 2009, Taiwan began attending the WHA as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

However, due to alleged Chinese pressure, the WHO last year waited until two weeks before the meeting to send Taiwan an invitation, which had an unprecedented “one China” proviso attached.

There have been concerns that the “one China” proviso might repeat in this year’s WHA invitation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) told a legislative session late last month that there is no room for optimism, but added that the ministry would not passively wait for an invitation.

Regarding the measures the government has taken in case it does not receive an invitation this year, the official said they could include strategies employed by the administrations of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), such as listening to the meeting on the sidelines, or staging a protest.

“We are still preparing back-up plans. If they are disclosed too early, it could cause our plans to collapse,” the official added.

Alliance executive director Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) said there are two ways for Taiwan to attend the WHA as an observer, which are waiting for an invitation from the WHO director-general, or having WHO member states propose a motion that lists Taiwan as a regular observer at the assembly.

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