A “leaked” internal memo from the WHO made public yesterday raised new questions about Taiwan’s participation in the International Health Regulations (IHR).
The memo, handed out by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), states: “Taiwan, as a province of China, cannot be party to the IHR” — an agreement that dovetails with Beijing’s position.
World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolution 25.1, referring to the 1972 clause that ejected Taiwan’s representatives to the WHO, remains a “touchstone for such matters,” the confidential document said.
Taiwan’s inability to be a party in the IHR is “consistent with that resolution,” it said.
The memo’s assertions come as a direct contradiction to remarks from officials in President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, who have hailed Taiwan’s inclusion in the IHR in 2009, when Taiwan was allowed to attend the annual WHA meeting as an observer. The administration insists Taiwan’s admission did not require Beijing’s approval.
Fadela Chaib, a WHO spokesperson who checked with the body’s legal counsel, confirmed to the Taipei Times that Taiwan “is part” of the IHR, but did not expand on the extent of its participation.
Refusing to elaborate on the contradiction with the internal memo, she said that “Taiwan, China” is a part of the globally binding health regulations.
In Taipei, Department of Health (DOH) officials said Taiwan was “without doubt” a participant in the global rules aimed at enhancing public health. Taiwan voluntarily complied with the regulations in 2006 and officially became a party to it in 2009, officials said.
“There’s no question about it. Taiwan has been a participant in the IHR since 2009,” DOH spokesperson Wang Che-chao (王哲超) told the Taipei Times.
Wang said communications between Taipei and the two WHO-appointed “contact points” had been ongoing and contradicted the statement that Taiwan cannot be party to the regulations because of its lack of official statehood.
The statement is included in the memo’s “talking points” WHO officials should use when responding to questions from outside the body about Taiwan’s status based on an arrangement between the WHO and Beijing.
Kuan also said another contentious aspect of Taiwan’s relationship with the WHO was an IHR expert roster that listed a former DOH deputy chief as from “Taiwan, China.”
The document, released separately by Kuan’s office, is consistent with the first memo that dictates the proper terminology for Taiwan as “the Taiwan Province of China.”
Dated Jan. 15, the roster singles out former DOH deputy minister Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳).
“Our representatives apparently have to attend [WHO] expert sessions under the designation from [China] and Chang is no different,” Kuan said in remarks that Chang immediately rejected.
Chang, who had stepped down from the post when the roster was published, said yesterday he had heard that a Taiwanese expert encountered the problem earlier this year, but said that it was not he.
“If something like this did happen, I would never have participated in the [WHO],” he said, insisting that he was called “Dr Chang” at all times during the IHR expert sessions.