Friends, no votes at WHA

POLITICS: While many expressed feelings of support for Taipei's attempt to join the WHO, few nations are willing to back up their emotions with votes in Taiwan's favor


Wed, May 15, 2002 - Page 3

Mongolian Minister of Health P. Namydawa expressed his sympathy with Taiwan prior to the political showdown on Monday of Taiwan's sixth bid to gain entry to the WHO.

"Of course I feel sympathetic with Taiwan," said the candid doctor-turned minister, who visited Taipei once through an academic exchange.

"But we are very near to Big China. Politically, we cannot support you," said Namydawa, while waiting for a lift prior to the opening of the 55th World Health Assembly (WHA) on Monday morning.

"We've been instructed by our foreign ministry to support China," said Namydawa, who also serves as chairman of the Sub-Assembly of Medical Sciences of the Mongolian Academia of Sciences.

Namydawa's Taiwanese counterpart, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), recognized the disparity between the sympathy Taiwan has won from various countries for its bid to become an observer at the WHA -- the WHO's highest decision-making body -- and the political support it has garnered.

"There is indeed a difference between the sympathy we've received and the support in political terms we've elicited," Lee said.

But for those Taiwanese who witnessed the WHA's decision not to include Taiwan's appeal on the assembly's agenda on Monday, nothing but the sense of exclusion from the world community and a feeling of resentment toward China was possible.

"DPP lawmaker Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) told me she went all the way to the West to learn about human rights, and it indeed saddened her to witness the way international society has denied the rights of the people of Taiwan to enter the WHO," said foreign ministry official May-sing Huang (楊黃美幸), in tears on Monday evening.

"While WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland talked about the notion of human security in her address to the assembly, it made one feel she was indeed a hypocrite when thinking about her aloofness toward Taiwan's WHO bid," said a Taiwanese scholar, who declined to be named.

"I even felt the urge to jump from the public gallery ... to the ground floor to protest against the assembly's decision," the scholar added.

Petition letters from many Taiwanese, such as those from the health minister and a Taiwanese scholar were sent to Brundtland to urge her to invite Taiwan to take part in the WHA as an observer. These were met with nothing but silence.

Taiwan ambassador-at-large Ken Chiu (邱晃泉) also lamented the exclusion of Taiwan.

Chiu said Taipei's exclusion from the multilateral health organization simply hindered Taiwan's role in discussing various important health issues with other countries, such as the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the aging of the world population and as the health of Aborigines.

In a "Taiwan Night" held at a local hotel in Geneva Monday evening, another ambassador-at-large, Wu Yung-tung (吳運東), also attacked China's stance on the issue, saying it's "ridiculous" for Beijing to state that the well-being of the Taiwanese people were in the hands of China.

"It is the tens of thousands of doctors in Taiwan that have been taking care of all sorts of medical documents for the 23 million people in Taiwan," said Wu, who also served as president of the Taiwan Medical Association as well as president of the Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania.

Chiu said the government should consider making an appeal to the International Court of Justice to question the legal validity of the WHA's refusal to review Taipei's application.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kao (高英茂) said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently studying the feasibility of making a related appeal to the International Court of Justice, with regard to Taiwan's WHO bid.

While admitting that he felt "frustrated" from time to time, the scholar-turned-vice-minister-of-foreign-affairs remained upbeat about Taiwan's initiative this year to apply to join the WHA as a "health entity."

"The trend of globalization stresses international cooperation, and various international organizations have already put the focus on functional issues," Kao said.

While admitting that he has had nightmares related to the nation's WHO effort, such as one in which Taipei's proposal is put on the table without applause, Kao said that the new initiative would gain momentum in the future.

"I can guarantee to you that the international law textbooks in 10 years would record our case as a precedent," Kao added.